‘Huge amount of frustration’ as new quarantine rules begin
Written by on 12 September 2020
Passengers arriving from Portugal, Hungary, French Polynesia and Reunion have been voicing their anger at new quarantine rules.
Anyone arriving in England and Northern Ireland from those territories since 4am this morning will have to isolate for two weeks.
Passengers flying back to England and Northern Ireland from Madeira and the Azores will not have to self-isolate.
Sky correspondent Ali Fortescue, who was at Stansted Airport this morning, said there was a “huge amount of frustration” among passengers.
One man who flew back from Portugal and missed the 4am deadline said: “I don’t think it’s going to make you dangerous if you go [to Portugal] and come back here.”
A woman returning from Portugal told Sky News: “It changes all the time, so you never really know what’s going to happen.”
There is also confusion over “different parts of the country doing different things at different times”.
Scotland and Wales have been asking people returning from Portugal and French Polynesia to quarantine for two weeks since 5 September, but England and Northern Ireland only brought in those measures on Saturday.
Portugal was only added to England’s “safe list” three weeks ago, sparking a surge in holiday bookings, which have now been thrown into chaos by the new measures.
Scotland is also taking a “whole country approach” to its Portugal quarantine, whereas passengers returning to England, Wales and Northern Ireland from Madeira and the Azores do not have to self-isolate on arrival.
Simon Calder, travel editor of The Independent, told Sky News: “The sense is that your boarding pass is just a lottery ticket. Nobody knows where will be quarantined next.”
He claimed Italy has “another 12 days” before it risks being placed on the UK quarantine list too, but holidays to Turkey are “probably going to be okay for the rest of September”.
Sophie Sadler, editor of an English-language newspaper in Portugal’s Algarve region, told Sky News the new quarantine rules have been “really devastating” for the area.
She said: “It’s terribly disruptive, especially when you think of how reliant on tourism we are…. we are reliant on a few peak months.
“Sixty per cent of trade in those peak months is from the British. Local businesses I have been speaking to have been quoting figures that they are between 70 and 80% down year on year.”
Hotel owners have had a “terrible season” because of coronavirus, but saw a spike in bookings after Portugal was put on the UK safe list in August, she added.
“Then only three weeks later, we’re back on the quarantine list, so everyone cancels again.”
She said it is “too disruptive” to change measures on a week-to-week basis, and urged the UK government to consider a “Greece-style” approach, whereby regions with low rates of COVID-19 could be exempted from restrictions.
It comes after England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales decided that arrivals from Sweden will no longer need to isolate for two weeks.
The Times reported that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is considering plans to fine people who refuse to isolate, following concerns that people are leaving their homes when they should be staying away from other people.
The newspaper said the move was part of a “carrot and stick” approach as various parts of the UK are put under tighter restrictions due to the spread of the virus.
On Friday there were 3,539 positive tests for coronavirus recorded, the highest level in the UK since mid-May and a sharp rise from the 2,919 recorded on Thursday.
The Government Office for Science and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) also revealed that the estimate for the R (reproduction) number – which measures how many people are infected by each person who has the virus – is between 1.0 and 1.2.
According to government advisers, the last time R was above 1 was in early March.