Brits scrambling home from France after quarantine move

World | 14 Aug 2020 10:03 pm

British holidaymakers in France were scrambling to return home Friday to avoid having to self-isolate for 14 days following the U.K. government’s decision to reimpose quarantine restrictions on France amid a recent pick-up in coronavirus infections.

The British government announced late Thursday that it was taking France off the list of nations exempt from quarantine requirements, a move that potentially leaves the plans of hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers, as well as those planning to cross the English Channel soon, in disarray.

The French government has indicated that it will respond in kind, which would further hobble travel and tourism at a time when the industry is trying to recover from the economic shock of the coronavirus pandemic.

Philip Alston, who was looking after three cats for a French couple in Paris, made the decision — albeit reluctantly — to return to the U.K.

“Fortunately, they said in the case of this happening, they had a stand-by helper,” he said at the Gare du Nord station in Paris ahead of boarding a Eurostar train to London. “So I’m really upset because I was having a good time looking after the cats and exploring Paris.”

The British government insists it had to make the decision in light of a 66% spike in coronavirus infections in France in the past week. The Netherlands, Malta, Monaco and the Caribbean islands of Aruba and Turks & Caicos have also been added to the quarantine list for the same reason.

The quarantine requirement will apply to anyone returning to the U.K. after 4 a.m. local time on Saturday, a timeframe that has prompted many to try to return before then.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the decision shouldn’t have come as a big surprise given that the government has consistently said it will monitor infection rates when assessing its list of safe countries. Of the major Mediterranean destinations, only Greece, Italy and Turkey, are still deemed safe.

“Unfortunately, this virus doesn’t play ball,” he told Sky News.

Any rush back is likely to be most prominent in France, the second-most popular holiday destination for British tourists after Spain, which was put on the quarantine list last month. Travel companies are urging anyone considering a swift return home to check whether they will be able to do so.-AP

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