Holidaymakers scrambling to return after new quarantine restrictions imposed
British holidaymakers face another race against time to get home before new quarantine rules on countries including Portugal and Hungary come into force.
The Government announced on Thursday evening that Portugal, Hungary, French Polynesia and Reunion have been removed from the quarantine exemption list.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that travellers arriving in England from those countries after 4am on Saturday will have to self-isolate for 14 days.
It comes as reports suggested ministers are divided over new social distancing rules in England that will limit social gatherings to groups of just six people both indoors and outside from Monday.
On Thursday Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced similar measures limiting indoor and outdoor gatherings to groups of six from two households, with a key difference that children under 12 would not be included.
The Daily Telegraph reported on Friday that senior Tories also want younger children to be exempt from the so-called “rule of six” in England, while the Daily Mail claimed Health Secretary Matt Hancock was the only Cabinet minister on Boris Johnson’s coronavirus strategy committee to support the plan at a meeting on Tuesday, the day before it was announced by the Prime Minister.
The latest quarantine measures were criticised as a “major body blow” to consumer confidence which left families in a race against time get home.
Mr Shapps also tweeted that Sweden will be added to the exemption list meaning travellers entering England from there will not have to quarantine.
He said: “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.”
But World Travel and Tourism Council 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.”
In Scotland, the First Minister also announced changes for the hospitality sector, making it mandatory for customers to wear face coverings “whenever they are moving around and not eating or drinking”.
Meanwhile Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford is expected to confirm on Friday that people will only be able to meet in groups of six or under indoors from Monday.
But people will also still be able to meet up in groups of up to 30 outdoors, as long as they maintain social distancing.
It comes as coronavirus rates continued to increase across parts of the UK with Leeds and Birmingham among areas at risk of further lockdown measures.
The most recent data for the seven days to September 7 showed Birmingham had the second highest rate of new cases in the country at 85.4 per 100,000 people and 975 new cases while Leeds had 536 new cases and a rate of 67.6.
The Treasury Select Committee is also warning that Chancellor Rishi Sunak risks mass long-term unemployment and putting hard-hit viable firms out of business if the furlough scheme comes to an abrupt end on October 31.
In the second report of its inquiry into the economic impact of coronavirus the cross-party committee of MPs is recommending a “targeted” extension to the coronavirus furlough scheme.
On Thursday Mr Hancock defended the Government’s ambitious mass Covid-19 testing proposals in the face of laughter and heckling in Parliament.
He hit out at the “naysayers” in the House of Commons when outlining the Operation Moonshot plans, which aim to see millions of UK-wide tests carried out daily with results available in 90-to-20 minutes but have been criticised as overly ambitious and relying on technology that does not yet exist.
Leaked documents seen by the BMJ medical journal suggested the project could have a price tag of £100 billion – close to that of the £114 billion budget given to NHS England in 2018-19.
The latest Department of Health and Social Care figures revealed the number of close contacts of people who tested positive for Covid-19 in England reached through the test and trace system fell to its lowest level since the system was launched.
Just over two thirds (69.2%) of close contacts were reached in the week ending September 2, down slightly from 69.8% in the previous week, and once again short of the Government’s 80% target.
The figures also showed that the system recorded the highest weekly number of positive tests since it was launched at the end of May.