UK plans to add France to Covid-19 quarantine list


France on Wednesday reported 2,524 new coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours, a record after the lockdown, as British officials prepared to decide to add the country to its quarantine list.

But Boris Johnson’s government is not expected to immediately announce on Thursday that British travelers to France must self-isolate for 14 days upon their return, which is welcome for British holidaymakers.

When the UK’s travel regime is reviewed on Thursday, French officials expect Health Secretary Matt Hancock to say he is closely monitoring the situation in France, but that further travel restrictions would be premature.

Malta and the Netherlands, which have higher infection rates than France, are considered more likely to be added to the UK list. It already includes the popular holiday destinations of Spain and Portugal.

After Spain, France is the UK’s second most visited destination, attracting over 10 million visitors last year.

Despite the latest health data from France, French and UK officials do not expect quarantine restrictions to be imposed immediately. Paris has indicated that if the UK acts, it will impose a voluntary reciprocal quarantine regime for people traveling to France from Britain.

The travel industry expects the government to give travelers 30 hours’ notice before adding a country to the list. When Belgium was added on Thursday last week, the new rule went into effect at 4 a.m. on Saturday.

The government reviews the list of countries it considers a risk every seven days using benchmarks, including number of cases, quality of tests, health infrastructure and reliability of reports by each country.

France has recorded 30.4 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 14 days, compared to 37.9 in the Netherlands and 61.6 in Malta. The UK rate was 18.2. The British government declined to comment on its quarantine policy.

After withdrawing its advice against international travel to most countries in Europe, the Foreign Office came under fire last month when it made the eleventh-hour decision to quarantine returning travelers from Spain with six hours notice.

Paul Charles, an independent travel advisor, said the industry could not survive the continual “in and out” of quarantine measures “because it does not make consumers feel confident”.

The Association of British Travel Agents, the trade body, said instead of introducing blanket bans on countries, it was pushing for a more targeted approach, in which the government would advise against going to areas specific cases where cases have multiplied.

He added that for the package holiday industry the addition of Malta to the list was of more concern than France, as France largely attracted second home owners and independent travelers.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex called on Tuesday to “extend as far as possible the compulsory wearing of masks in public places” in order to reduce the high risk of an outbreak of the pandemic which has already killed more than 30,000 people in France since March.

Masks are already required in indoor public places across the country, and local authorities have increasingly enforced the rule outdoors on crowded streets and markets.

Mr Castex also announced that the nationwide ban on gatherings of more than 5,000 people would last at least until the end of October. The Paris marathon scheduled for November 15 has been canceled.

President Emmanuel Macron said on Twitter after a security cabinet meeting in the middle of the summer vacation: “The epidemic is not taking a vacation. It is essential to remain vigilant and adhere to antivirus measures. Be careful!


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