Holidaymakers are facing chaos and uncertainty amid fears France, Holland, Switzerland, Poland and Malta could be added to the quarantine list within days.
Amid an alarming surge in coronavirus cases on the continent, Boris Johnson warned yesterday that ministers will ‘not hesitate’ to reintroduce quarantine ‘very rapidly’ if infections continue to rise.
There are already fears that France – where 500,000 Britons are currently on holiday – could be re-added if infections continue to increase over the next two days. The scenario could trigger a frantic rush of passengers desperate to return home.
And last night an industry expert warned it may be the case that fresh restrictions are imposed on Holland, Switzerland, Poland and Malta, where case numbers are rising. All returning passengers would have to self-isolate for 14 days.
Airline bosses last night dismissed the reports as ‘overegged’ speculation, but ministers have not ruled out new restraints, insisting it is too early to make a decision that would have a significant impact on holidaymakers and the travel industry.
There are already fears that France – where 500,000 Britons are currently on holiday – could be re-added if infections continue to increase over the next two days
An industry expert warned it may be the case that fresh restrictions are imposed on Holland, Switzerland, Poland and Malta, where case numbers are rising (pictured: Dover, August 9)
Airline bosses last night dismissed the reports as ‘overegged’ speculation, but ministers have not ruled out new restraints, insisting it is too early to make a decision that would have a significant impact on holidaymakers and the travel industry (pictured: Heathrow, July 30)
An extension of quarantine across Europe would effectively signal the death knell for foreign holidays this summer, heaping fresh misery on airlines and tour operators.
In a potential scramble to return home before any new rulings come into force, holidaymakers would likely be given at least 30 hours’ notice before the measures kick in.
Ministers are said to be giving careful thought to the decision to blacklist France due to heightened diplomatic tensions with the Channel migrant crisis.
There are said to be further concerns for the capacity of Eurotunnel and ferry operators to deal with a sudden rush of travellers returning home. Ministers insist no decisions have been made and an announcement is not expected imminently.
But in a sign of concern over the spike in infections, Whitehall sources last night said travellers should be prepared to expect the worst and warned: ‘No holiday is necessarily guaranteed.’
An official announcement could come on Thursday night, after ministers are presented with the latest data in their weekly review of the quarantine list.
Officials say it is impossible to predict whether the countries will be added to the quarantine list but said they will monitor infection rates over the coming days.
One of the measurements used by Public Health England and the Joint Biosecurity Centre to determine the risk is the number of cases per 100,000 of the population, cumulative over 14 days.
According to industry insiders, any country with a consistent rate of more than 20 cases per 100,000 people, over seven days, is at risk of being added to the quarantine list.
As of Sunday, France has a rate of 26 per 100,000, Poland is 23 and Switzerland 25. Yesterday Malta hit 58.6 cases per 100,000 and Holland 32.5. The rates have been rising steadily over the last week, according to data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
A Whitehall source told the Daily Mail: ‘A lot of it comes down to these infection rates. Obviously, rising cases mean the risk of quarantine is more likely. No decisions have been made and we are waiting to see how things change over the week. What we would say to holidaymakers is that they need to be aware there is a risk of quarantine coming in at any time. No holiday is necessarily guaranteed.’
Speaking on a visit to Essex yesterday, the Prime Minister said ministers will ‘not hesitate’ to impose restrictions.
He said: ‘I don’t want to advise people about their individual holidays, individual decisions, they should look at the travel advice from the Foreign Office clearly.
‘But what I will say, and I hope people would expect us to do this, in the context of a global pandemic, we’ve got to keep looking at the data in all the countries to which British people want to travel.
‘Where it is necessary to impose restrictions or to impose a quarantine system, we will not hesitate to do so.’
Rising cases: Spain has suffered a severe spike in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, as this graph shows, while France, Germany and Italy have also seen upticks in new infections
Boris Johnson warned that ministers will ‘not hesitate’ to impose a quarantine system for travellers from other countries to the UK if needed
Summer holidays have been blamed for rising cases in Germany and Italy, while France has tightened its face mask rules in tourist hotspots such as Paris and the Mediterranean resort of Saint Tropez.
However, Europe has yet to see a major spike in deaths or hospital cases, amid signs that many of those testing positive are young and less vulnerable to the disease.
France has piled up more than 10,000 new cases in the last week, the highest number since April and a sharp increase from 7,391 the week before.
The government’s Covid-19 scientific council warned last week that France could ‘at any moment’ lose control over the spread of the disease.
Some French towns are now requiring face masks outdoors, including the Mediterranean resort of Saint-Tropez and other tourist areas.
Paris and Marseille, the two largest cities in France, have both ordered mask-wearing in crowded outdoor areas such as open-air markets and the banks of the Seine.
Asked if France could be added to the quarantine list, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘We keep the data for all countries and territories under constant review.
‘Any decisions to update the exemptions list will be informed by the latest health data and we can and will act rapidly. We have been updating the exemptions list on a weekly basis in order to make sure that it reflects the changes in the international health picture.’
He added: ‘If there is a need to act very rapidly in order to protect public health, then we wouldn’t hesitate to do so.’
He went on: ‘Unfortunately, during this pandemic there isn’t a risk-free way of travelling overseas. The population’s made a huge effort to get the disease down to the levels that we’re seeing in the UK and if we feel that we need to act in relation to the travel exemptions list then we’ll do so.’
He continued: ‘While we can amend the list at any time and we can remove countries from the exempt list, if there’s a sustained improvement in the health situation in a particular country we can reinstate exemptions or add some new ones.’
‘Bonfire of jobs’ with a THIRD of firms planning lay offs this autumn as figures are set to show the economy has formally gone into recession
Fears are mounting of a ‘bonfire of jobs’ amid warnings a third of firms are planning to lay off staff this autumn.
Shock research found huge numbers of companies expect to axe roles in the third quarter of the year as coronavirus hammers the economy.
Many of the cuts are set to come from hospitality businesses such as hotels, restaurants and cafes, as well as shops that were already on the brink before the pandemic.
The hit emerged in a survey carried out by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) with recruiter the Adecco Group.
The number of firms that cut 20 or more roles during June was up fivefold compared to last year, rising to 1,778. Pictured: Stock photo of an upset businessman
GDP figures due to be released this week are set to show that the UK has entered a technical recession – with two consecutive quarters of contraction. The Bank of England predicts that the downturn will be the worst in a hundred years (chart pictured)
Labour demanded the government ditches plans to scrap the furlough scheme entirely from October, forcing employers to take on the full costs of staff wages again.
Meanwhile, figures released this week are due to confirm that the UK has formally entered recession – with a second quarter of GDP contracting. And official jobs data are scheduled for tomorrow.
Figures on Wednesday are widely expected to show the economy contracted massively during the second quarter following the imposition of the virus lockdown.
That comes after output declined in the first three months of the year. Two successive quarters of contraction officially marks a recession, which would be the first since the financial crisis hit.
Separate figures from the Insolvency Service have indicated that more than 139,000 jobs were lost in June.
The number of firms that cut 20 or more roles during June was up fivefold compared to last year, rising to 1,778.
And economic figures due this week are due to underline the scale of the problems, with jobs figures and the latest GDP estimate coming within days.
There are fears that huge numbers of people working from home is causing damage as businesses that rely on busy offices – from sandwich shops and pubs to dry cleaners and hairdressers – are deprived of custom.
Sandwich shop chains Pret a Manger and Upper Crust have already axed thousands of jobs between them, with Pret yesterday asking staff to accept reduced hours.
Gerwyn Davies, of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), said businesses were now facing the prospect of rising costs as the Government winds down its jobs furlough scheme.
He added: ‘For many firms, the problem is that revenues are simply not coming in. There is undoubtedly going to be a lot of job losses.’
Firms that revealed plans to lay off staff in June included Royal Mail, Jet2, HSBC, Jaguar Land Rover, Centrica and the Restaurant Group, owner of Frankie and Benny’s.
Similar announcements followed from other big names in July, such as Marks & Spencer, Boots and John Lewis.
The Bank of England said last week that the UK economy is likely to shrink by nearly a tenth over this year
The Bank predicted that GDP will have been down by more than a fifth in the second quarter
High Street businesses have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, with lockdown measures dramatically reducing visitor numbers and forcing ‘non-essential’ shops to close for months.
But the jobs bloodbath is expected to intensify when the Government’s furlough scheme winds down in October.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been urged to extend the scheme for specific sectors that have been worst hit but has so far resisted pressure to do so.
Shadow business minister Lucy Powell called for the Government to ‘urgently rethink their rigid approach’, which will see the furlough scheme end entirely in October.
‘The unpredictable nature of this virus means that public health measures must be flexible and responsive, but it surely follows that economic measures must be the same,’ the Labour MP said.
‘It’s clearly illogical and unfair to prevent businesses from opening their doors, cutting them off from any income, and to cut their furlough lifeline at the same time.
‘They’ve said they can’t save every job, but we’re seeing a jobs bonfire. They need to target their support at the hardest-hit sectors or be responsible for another wave of mass redundancies.’
As part of plans to set an example and get the country moving again, the Government has told civil servants – four fifths of whom are still working remotely -to get back to work in central London or risk losing their prestigious Westminster offices.
Treasury officials are said to be considering mass sell-off of the Government’s buildings in the capital before this autumn’s spending review.