U.K. Tourists Face Chaos as France Added to Quarantine List
Travelers pass along a walkway towards the Stansted Express train service to London at from London Stansted Airport. (Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg)

U.K. Tourists Face Chaos as France Added to Quarantine List

Hundreds of thousands of British tourists face being forced to self-isolate for two weeks on their return home after the government added France, the Netherlands and Malta to its list of virus trouble-spot destinations.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s administration warned Britons against all non-essential trips to these countries and said the quarantine requirement would come into force from 4 a.m. Saturday, sending travel industry stocks tumbling.

The measures, to deal with a surge in Covid-19 infections, are likely to spark a chaotic scramble for tickets on flights, trains and car ferries for 160,000 Britons currently holidaying in France. The French government said the decision was regrettable and warned it would lead to reciprocal action.

“The biggest priority has to be to protect our hard-won gains in getting the virus under control and not re-importing it as people return home,” U.K. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Times Radio on Friday. “It’s a public health issue we simply can’t turn our backs on.”

The extension of quarantine measures -- which require people to isolate at home for 14 days after arriving in Britain -- reflects growing concern in Johnson’s team over the resurgence of the virus. Covid-19 cases are increasing in Europe and parts of the U.K. at a time when the government is trying to drag the country’s badly damaged economy out of recession.

Opening Up

Johnson announced late Thursday he will allow more sectors of the economy in England to re-open from Saturday, including theaters, casinos and beauty parlors. But penalties for people who flout the rules will be increased, with maximum fines for repeat offenders rising to a maximum of 3,200 pounds ($4,180). Tighter localized restrictions covering parts of northern England which have had outbreaks were extended on Friday.

The government said from Aug. 15:

  • Indoor performance venues can re-open
  • Wedding receptions can take place with up to 30 guests at a sit-down meal
  • Indoor play centers, bowling alleys, skating rinks and casinos can open
  • Beauty salons, tattoo parlors, spas and barbers can offer “close contact” services

“Most people in this country are following the rules and doing their bit to control the virus, but we must remain focused and we cannot be complacent,” Johnson said in an emailed statement. “That is why we are strengthening the enforcement powers available to use against those who repeatedly flout the rules.”

Figures this week showed the U.K. suffering the hardest economic slump in Europe, with GDP shrinking 20.4% in the second quarter, the most since records began in 1955.

Tourism Hit

The tourist industry, including the aviation sector, have suffered among the heaviest blows, while the leisure and hospitality sector in the U.K. has been reopening cautiously, with government subsidies to encourage consumers to dine out.

Travel and tourism stocks were again among the hardest hit in the U.K. and across Europe on Friday at the prospect of widening travel restrictions. British Airways parent IAG SA dropped as much as 7%, while discount carriers EasyJet Plc and Ryanair Holdings Plc tumbled. Shares of InterContinental Hotels Group Plc, owner of the Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza chains, also fell.

Johnson said before the announcement on France his government would be “absolutely ruthless” in making decisions over imposing quarantine rules on more countries. With British schools on their summer breaks, many families are taking vacations, and the announcement will mean some holidaymakers are unable to return to work when they get back.

In the last month, the U.K. has reimposed quarantines on other countries including Spain, the Bahamas and Belgium.

During broadcast interviews Friday, the transport secretary said the quarantine decisions were mainly based on outbreak data for individual countries, with concerns being triggered where the number of cases rose above 20 per 100,000 of the population.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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