Could France be the next country to be added to the UK’s quarantine list?

Friday, 7th August 2020, 2:08 pm
Updated Friday, 7th August 2020, 2:10 pm
(Photo: CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP via Getty Images)

As coronavirus cases continue to increase in certain countries on the continent, fears of a dreaded 'second wave' are rising, and the UK government is taking no chances.

On 7 August, Belgium, Andorra and Bahamas became the latest countries to be added to the UK’s quarantine list alongside Spain, which was removed from the government’s safe list on 26 July.

This means travellers returning to Britain from these places will have to self-isolate for 14 days.

Junior Health minister Helen Whately told the BBC the bringing back of the quarantine rules was the "right thing to do" as the UK's virus rate must be kept "right down" to avoid a second spike.

As cases continue to rise in France, could it be the next country to have quarantine rules reinstated?

Here's everything you need to know:

Could travellers from France have to quarantine again?

The government is being proactive in responding to increases in cases abroad, with quarantines having been reintroduced for UK visitors returning from Belgium, Andorra, the Bahamas, Luxembourg and Spain.

Whately said at the time of the reintroduction of Spain's quarantine rules that Britain was closely monitoring the coronavirus situation in France, and continuously reviewing the situation in popular holiday destinations.

She urged anyone considering booking a holiday to "be mindful that we are still in the situation of a global pandemic".

What’s the situation in France?

France recorded its highest number of daily coronavirus infections in more than two months this week, with figures released on Wednesday showing 1,695 new cases within 24 hours

Now, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has weighed in warning holidaymakers that "there is always the risk of disruption to travel plans" during a pandemic, when he was asked whether France may be the next on the quarantine list.

"It’s a tricky situation," he told Sky News. "What I can say to people is we’re in the midst of a global pandemic and that means there is always the risk of disruption to travel plans and people need to bear that in mind."

On the same day, Spain reported its highest number of new cases since it began easing lockdown restrictions in June, with 1,772 infections.

When are the quarantine rules reviewed?

Initially, the UK reviewed the nations included on the 'safe' list every three weeks, but now a rolling review system could see countries removed from the list at short notice.

“We have to keep the situation under review and I think that is what the public would expect us to do,” Ms Whately told Sky News on 27 July.

“If we see rates going up in a country where at the moment there is no need to quarantine, if we see the rates going up, we would have to take action because we cannot take the risk of coronavirus being spread again across the UK,” she added.

So it sounds like there is no set date for an ‘official’ review of the quarantine rules, though the government is likely to stick to their three-week approach if no review happens sooner.

That would suggest a review no later than 16 August for England, three weeks after quarantine rules were reintroduced for Spain. 

How quickly could quarantine rules be imposed?

The government announced on Thursday evening that the new quarantine rules for Belgium, Andorra and the Bahamas will come into force from 4am on Saturday 8 August.

That gives travellers some heads up, and potentially allows visitors to those areas to return ahead of the quarantine procedures coming into place.

However, with the coronavirus situation always changing, if France were to be added to the list, there's no guarantee that such a warning would be given.

When Spain was put on the quarantine list, only a minimal amount of breathing room was given by the government.

That caught many travellers out, who returned to find that they now had to undergo two weeks of self-isolation they were not aware of when they first set out on their travels.

How can I check the quarantine rules?

It's also worth remembering that each of the four devolved nations of the UK are free to handle their coronavirus containment procedures differently.

So while most of the updates you might see in the news are England specific, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are typically taking a more cautious approach to the pandemic.

In Wales for instance, visitors returning from Belgium, Andorra and the Bahamas will need to self-isolate, but the rules came into force almost instantly following the announcement.

The best advice if you are currently in a country that could be at risk of having quarantine rules reimposed upon it is to check the Foreign Office's website for the latest travel advice, and the most up-to-date version of the list of so-called travel corridors.

The Foreign Office website also links out to the equivalents for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.