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Wales removes Gibraltar from quarantine exemption list, but no change in England

The Welsh Government has removed Gibraltar from its list of countries and territories exempt from quarantine requirements.

The decision, which comes into force on Friday at 4am, means anyone travelling from Gibraltar to Wales - even if via English airports - will have to self-isolate on arrival.

Vaughn Gething, the Welsh Minister for Health and Social Services, said the decision followed “the clear advice” of the UK’s Join Biosecurity Centre.

A number of other countries and territories were removed from the Welsh list alongside Gibraltar, including mainland Portugal, French Polynesia and the Greek islands of Mykonos, Zakynthos, Lesvos, Paros and Antiparos and Crete.

“This action is being taken as a result of a large number of cases of coronavirus have been imported into Wales from tourists returning from the Greek islands, in particular,” Mr Gething said.

“In the last week, there have been more than 20 cases confirmed in passengers on one flight from Zante to Cardiff.”

In contrast to the Welsh decision, however, Gibraltar remains on England’s exemption list, even though the decision is based on the same data from the Joint Biosecurity Centre.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Thursday there will be no changes for now to England’s quarantine list.

He tweeted: “We continue to keep the Travel Corridor list under constant review & won’t hesitate to remove countries if needed. However, there are no English additions or removals today. Nonetheless, holidaymakers are reminded – 14-day quarantine countries can & do change at very short notice”.

He added: “Travel Corridor factors taken into account by JBC & Ministers inc: Covid-19 prevalence; level & rate of change; extent of in-country tests, regime & test positivity; extent of contained outbreak as opposed to general transmission; govt actions & other epidemiological information.”

A spokesman for the Gibraltar Government said there was constant close contact with UK officials on the issue of travel corridors.

"The Government is seeking to address all issues of concern with the United Kingdom and, where relevant, the government's of the devolved administrations," the spokesman told the Chronicle.

There are currently 40 active resident cases of coronavirus in Gibraltar.

While the figure is relatively low, when extrapolated to establish the number of cases per 100,000 people - the standard measure used by many public health authorities - the increase can trigger restrictions.

Last week, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said imposing quarantine requirements was “an understandable reaction” to that extrapolation, but did not accurately reflect the situation in Gibraltar.

“If you do a more detailed dive and you looked at the fact that we are doing more testing than most places per head of population, then you’ll understand that actually we are being very successful in identifying cases of the virus, and in then exercising controls in terms of imposing self-isolation etc, which is working quite well in Gibraltar,” he told BBC Radio 4's flagship news programme Today.

“We have larger numbers of the virus detected now, but we have no one in hospital, we have no one in ICU, we have no one [who has] died with the virus.”

“I would say we’re being very successful in our strategy.”