Fuming Britons blast ministers' lack of consistency on quarantining

‘Why can’t they give us until Sunday?’ Fuming Britons scrambling to get back to the UK from Czech Republic and Switzerland blast 40 hours’ notice which means they must return by 4am on Saturday or face quarantine

  • Those arriving in UK after 4am on Saturday from some nations must self-isolate
  • Travellers are making plans to return from the Czech Republic and Switzerland
  • One Briton said the government were just ‘making things up as they go along’

Furious Britons have hit out at the Government over new measures that require them to be back by 4am tomorrow or face quarantine.

Travellers are quickly making plans to return to the UK from the Czech Republic, Jamaica and Switzerland before the new measures are imposed.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced on Thursday evening that those arriving in England from those countries after 4am on Saturday will need to self-isolate for 14 days.  

Peter Wright had been visiting relatives in his wife’s native Czech Republic for a few weeks with his grandson, who will be taking his driving theory test on Monday before returning to college. 

‘I noticed the last time countries were added to the list from which you must quarantine there was a reasonable notice given, so we thought the same would apply if anything happened which would affect us,’ Mr Wright told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

‘On this occasion it seems around 40 hours from the announcement of the government to the time you must be back in the UK. 

Travellers are quickly making plans to return to the UK from the Czech Republic, Jamaica and Switzerland before new quarantine measures are imposed (file image: British tourists wait in a queue in Corfu, 2019)

Alexandra Harrison-Rowe said she was stuck overseas with her medic husband who faced complications as a result of the decision

Rosie Di Matteo said: ‘What a bloody joke how can the airline industry get back with these ridiculous changes, you might as well say no travel for 2020’

Switzerland has also been added to the list of quarantine nations (pictured: Brienz town)

Stats showed that Jamaica was dangerously close to the threshold for quarantine with a seven day rate of 19.8 per 100,000 before the decision was made

‘The time was 4am, wrote off Saturday altogether as a day to travel. 

‘Friday, today, is the only day on which anyone could travel back to the UK from the Czech Republic and avoid the need to quarantine.’ 

He added: ‘Why does the government keep varying the number of days notice for these things? 

WHAT ARE THE CORONAVIRUS INFECTION RATES IN THE AT-RISK COUNTRIES? 

The latest figures were calculated by the Press Association, based on data collected by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. 

Ministers have claimed countries with a seven-day rate of 20 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people will be hit with quarantine conditions.

MailOnline asked the Department for Transport to explain how it calculates the figures because the ECDC only gives a 14-day rate and different data sources give varying estimates.

Switzerland 

Switzerland is already over the threshold, with a seven-day rate of 21.2, PA claims.

Separate figures from Our World in Data, a project run by Oxford University researchers who track the pandemic, show its infection rate is 21.91, up to August 27. The website claims the country, home to around 8.6million people, recorded 1,878 cases between August 21 and 27.

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic is currently recording a seven-day rate of 19.4 cases per 100,000, PA claims, up from 16 a week ago. 

Our World in Data statistics — from the ECDC — show the infection rate in the country, home to 10.7million people, is actually above the threshold (20.14). It recorded 2,153 cases between August 21 and 27, the website claims.

Jamaica

Jamaica, home to around 2.9million people, also appears to be dangerously close to the threshold with a seven day rate of 19.8 per 100,000, PA claims.

Our World in Data figures suggest it has already tipped the safe limit, with an infection rate of 20.85. It recorded 612 cases over the past seven days, the website claims. 

AND WHAT ABOUT ITALY? 

Italy is widely expected to remain on the UK Government’s safe travel list. 

PA says its case rate stands at just 10.8 per 100,000 which suggests the country is very unlikely to face action in the coming weeks. 

Our World in Data data suggests it is slightly higher, with 12.03 cases for every 100,000 people up to August 27. Italy, home to 60.4million people, saw 7,262 cases last week, according to the website.

‘First there was none, then the last announcement it seems they’ve come to their senses and given some reasonable notice, and this time around, again, next to none. 

‘There’s no consistency from this government in anything. They make things up as they go along.’

Mr Wright added that quarantine requirements were not ‘altogether unreasonable’, but the government should have introduced ‘proper’ measures back in February but ‘didn’t bother’. 

Alexandra Harrison-Rowe said she was stuck overseas with her medic husband who faced complications as a result of the decision.

She posted on Facebook: ‘We are currently stuck on hold to Ryanair, stuck in Czech Republic having come over urgently to see family. 

‘My partner is a Consultant anaesthetist so he’s SUPER excited to deal with 14 days worth of surgical list changes. 

‘There needs to be more notice, we should’ve been given AT LEAST 72 hours notice.’

Julian Griffiths, who is on his way home from Switzerland through France, told Radio 4 there were ‘thousands’ of others driving back to Calais.   

‘We’re allowed to get out of the car and fill up with fuel, we’re not allowed to go to restaurants or shops or things like that, so yeah we have to just pretty much go straight across to Calais,’ he said.

‘I think the notice is consistent with the last couple of announcements but the crazy thing is that whoever makes these decisions has to use their judgement. 

‘You’re allowed to travel from Portugal, and I don’t know anything about the Portuguese health service but you’re now facing quarantine if you live in Switzerland, and we now have free testing at local GP surgeries, both for the virus and the antibodies, and we’ve had that for months.

‘The level of testing and the quality of care and the quality of healthcare here is so much higher I would say than almost anywhere that looking at the simple metric it might seem fair.’ 

He added: ‘The idea that somehow if you’re in the UK it’s more dangerous to go abroad is completely wrong. If you want to avoid dying of Covid you should probably come to Switzerland.’

Scotland took Switzerland off its quarantine-exemption list last week.

Swiss International Air Lines is selling seats on a flight from Geneva to Heathrow departing on Friday afternoon for £321, while flights on Saturday – after the new quarantine rules come into force – are available for just £99.

A flight from Zurich on Friday is available for £244.

British Airways put on extra services from the Czech Republic and Switzerland to Heathrow following the quarantine announcement, costing £268 from Prague, £308 from Zurich and £353 from Geneva.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps warned British holidaymakers that quarantine rules could continue to change rapidly.

He told Sky News: ‘When people travel at the moment, when coronavirus is still a thing, (they) just need to be aware that unfortunately things can change very quickly and, you know, if you go with your eyes open and you know that things can change, it won’t then come as so much as of a surprise.’

Reductions in coronavirus cases mean that Cuba has been added to the list of destinations from which people can arrive in England or Wales without entering quarantine, while Wales has also removed the quarantine requirement for arrivals from Singapore.

It came as new enforcement powers entered into force from midnight, meaning that anyone facilitating an unlicensed music event or ‘any other unlawful gathering of 30 people or more’ could face a hefty penalty.

The Home Office has also said that fines for not wearing face coverings where it is mandated – such as on public transport and in supermarkets – will also double for repeat offenders from Friday.

People not wearing masks and those participating in unlawful gatherings can be fined starting at £100, doubling for each repeat offence up to a maximum of £3,200.

In Wales, indoor visits to both adult and children’s care homes have been given the green light from Friday.

Visits will be subject to strict controls to help prevent transmission of Covid-19.

Meanwhile, a major media campaign will be launched by the Government next week which will encourage workers to return to the office.

The adverts will promote the Government’s aim to reduce the number of employees working from home amid fears that town and city centres are becoming ghost areas as workers stay away.

Labour has criticised the plans as being ‘unconscionable’.

Shadow business minister Lucy Powell said: ‘It beggars belief that the Government are threatening people like this during a pandemic. Forcing people to choose between their health and their job is unconscionable.

‘Number 10 should condemn this briefing and categorically rule out any such campaign.’

However, Tory MPs have said that workers need to get back to the office.

Speaking to The Times, Conservative MP Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, warned of ‘devastating consequences’ if workers stayed at home.

The UK has said that any country which records more than 20 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people in a seven-day period will be subject to a travel ban and the 14 day self-isolation requirement for returning travellers.

The DfT said there has been a ‘consistent increase’ in the rate in Switzerland over the past four weeks, reaching 22.0 on Thursday.

It added that Jamaica’s rate rose from 4.3 on August 20 to 20.8 on Thursday, while the Czech Republic has seen ‘a consistent increase in newly reported cases’ over the past three weeks, with a 25 per cent spike from 1,723 between August 14-20 to 2,153 during the following seven days.

Writing on Twitter Mr Shapps said: ‘Data shows we need to remove the Czech Republic, Jamaica and Switzerland from our list of #Coronavirus Travel Corridors to keep infection rates DOWN.

The coronavirus case rate in Italy is currently at 10.8 per 100,000 which suggests the country is unlikely to face quarantine restrictions in the coming weeks. Termini railway station in Rome is pictured on August 23

‘If you arrive in the UK after 0400 Saturday from these destinations, you will need to self-isolate for 14 days.

In full: The countries which are not on the UK’s quarantine list

The Government has imposed quarantine restrictions on numerous countries in recent weeks. 

Below is the latest list of nations which are still viewed by the UK as safe to travel:   

Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Barbados, Bermuda, Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba, British Virgin Islands, Brunei, Cayman Islands, the Channel Islands, Cuba, Curaçao, Cyprus, Denmark, Dominica, Estonia, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, Fiji, Finland, French Polynesia, Gibraltar, Germany, Greece, Greenland, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Macao, Malaysia, Mauritius, Montserrat, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Norway, Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Seychelles, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, St Barthélemy, St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Pierre and Miquelon, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Taiwan, Turkey, Vatican City State, Vietnam.

‘Data also shows we can now add Cuba to those countries INCLUDED in Travel Corridors. As with all air bridge countries, please be aware that things can (and do sometimes) change quickly. Only travel if you are content to unexpectedly 14-day quarantine on return.’

The Department for Transport (DfT) said equivalent measures are being put in place in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Scotland took Switzerland off its list last week.

The DfT advised British travellers in Switzerland, Jamaica and the Czech Republic to ‘follow the local rules and check the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) travel advice pages’.

People hoping to return to the UK on Friday before the quarantine requirement is introduced face a struggle.

All direct flights from Prague to London appear to be sold out.

Swiss International Air Lines was selling seats on a flight from Geneva to Heathrow departing on Friday afternoon for £493, while flights from Zurich cost £377.

The latest statistics showed the seven-day rate in the Czech Republic is now at 19.4 cases per 100,000, up from 16 a week ago and only just below the threshold. 

Jamaica was appears to be dangerously close to the threshold with a seven day rate of 19.8 per 100,000.  

However, Italy remains on the UK Government’s safe travel list.  The case rate in Italy stands at just 10.8 per 100,000 which suggests the country is very unlikely to face action in the coming weeks. 

Greece now also appears likely to stay on the safe list for the moment.    

While the rate has ticked upwards in both countries, neither of them are near the UK’s threshold for banning non-essential travel. 

In Greece, the latest seven-day rate is 14.1 cases per 100,000 – roughly the same as a week ago (14.3), but up from where it was two weeks ago (10.1). 

The latest figures were calculated based on data collected by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.  

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