Portugal and Hungary among countries removed from quarantine exemption list
By PA Reporters
Portugal, Hungary, French Polynesia and Reunion have been removed from the quarantine exemption list, the Transport Secretary said.
Grant Shapps said that travellers arriving in England from those countries after 4am on Saturday will have to self-isolate for 14 days.
Mr Shapps tweeted that Portugal, excluding the Azores and Madeira, Hungary, French Polynesia and Reunion will be removed from the travel corridor list while Sweden will be added to the exemption list.
His tweet added: “Data shows we need to remove Portugal (minus the Azores and Madeira), Hungary, French Polynesia and Reunion from the Travel Corridor list to keep everyone safe.
“If you arrive in England from these destinations after 4am Saturday, you will need to self-isolate for 14 days.
“Through enhanced data we now have the capability to assess islands separate to their mainland countries. If you arrive in England from the Azores or Madeira, you will NOT need to self-isolate for 14 days.
“This week, Sweden has been added to the Travel Corridors list. If you arrive In England from Sweden, you will not need to self-isolate for 14 days.”
But the move was branded a “major body blow to consumer confidence to travel” by the World Travel and Tourism Council.
Its president and chief executive Gloria Guevara said: “Taking Portugal and Hungary off the exception list has left families in a race against time to find flights and get home to avoid going into 14 days of isolation or cancel their already made plans.
“This depressingly familiar situation is a major body blow to consumer confidence to travel.
“For while Madeira and the Azores will be excluded from the quarantine list under the Government’s new ‘island policy’, it will come as little comfort to the vast majority of holidaymakers, and the embattled travel and tourism sector, which has seen the 2020 summer holiday season effectively crushed.”
The Northern Ireland Executive announced the same changes as England.
Portugal reported 646 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, which is its highest daily total since late April.
This means Portugal’s seven-day rate of cases per 100,000 people is 28.3.
The seven-day rate for Hungary is 31.6 and 71.3 in French Polynesia, while it was 10.8 in Sweden.
A seven-day rate of 20 is the threshold above which the UK Government considers triggering quarantine conditions.
Figures have been calculated by the PA news agency based on data collected by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Mr Shapps said that all travellers returning to the UK must complete a passenger locator form by law.
He added: “All travellers returning to the UK must complete a passenger locator form by law.
“This is vital in protecting public health and ensuring those who need to are complying with self-isolation rules.
“It is a criminal offence not to complete the form and spot checks will be taking place.”
The changes mean that holidaymakers face a scramble to return home before restrictions come into force.
But Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said the weekly review system was not helping to revive confidence in travel.
He added: “I urge the Government to adopt a traffic lights system so that consumers are more clearly informed about countries at risk. This would reassure and enable people to book trips with more certainty.”
On Monday, the Department for Transport launched a new islands policy for travel corridors, which saw mainland Greece keep its exemption but seven islands have restrictions reimposed.
Meanwhile, more than a dozen airline leaders have written to Boris Johnson, warning that the islands policy is “by no means enough to support the sector”.
The letter, whose signatories include the chief executives of easyJet, Ryanair, British Airways and industry association Airlines UK, called for airport testing to be implemented before the end of September as a way of reducing self-isolation periods to five days.
It asked the Prime Minister to begin trialling tests on arrival and after five days on a route such as London-New York “to give ministers reassurance that a one-test-on-arrival system is safe”.
The airline leaders want certain mainland regions of countries to be added to the quarantine exemption list.
They also asked Mr Johnson to waive air passenger duty for 12 months and extend the Job Retention Scheme for aviation workers.
The letter warned that “our industry is in crisis” and the UK is “falling well behind international rivals”.
It concluded: “We ask you to act urgently to implement a programme of recovery for our sector.”