Fears for holidays as travel experts warn France ‘is highly likely’ to be added to quarantine list

By | August 7, 2020

Fears for thousands of holidays on the continent as travel experts warn France ‘is highly likely’ to be added to the 14-day quarantine list following a dramatic rise in coronavirus infections

  • France yesterday recorded 1,695 new infections as part of second Covid-19 wave
  • It is thought thousands of holidaymakers may cancel trips to avoid quarantine 
  • Spain and Luxembourg have both recently been added to the Government’s list  
  • Belgium, The Bahamas and Andorra will have air bridges stopped from weekend
  • ** Are you a British tourist concerned about an upcoming holiday to France? Please email us your story and picture to: mark.duell@mailonline.co.uk ** 

Thousands of holidays could be at risk as France is ‘highly likely’ to be added to the 14-day quarantine list following a dramatic rise in coronavirus infections, according to travel experts.

Tourists returning to the UK could soon be facing a 14 days in self-isolation amid speculation that France will be added to the Foreign Office’s quarantine list. 

The number of daily coronavirus cases in the country has soared in recent days, with 1,695 new infections being recorded just yesterday, as it battles a second wave of Covid-19. 

It is thought that if the decision goes ahead holidaymakers may be forced to cancel their trips in order to avoid the two-week quarantine on their return. 

Paul Charles, CEO of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: ‘Unless France takes further significant steps to reduce its case numbers, then it’s highly likely to be added later next week as the increase must be causing worries in Westminster. 

‘There are several hundred thousand British tourists in France at the moment so the government must give plenty of warning if it does change its advice later next week.’ 

Meanwhile, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced on Thursday evening that the Bahamas, Andorra and Belgium will be taken off the UK’s quarantine-exemption list

Travellers from France could soon face a 14 days of self-isolation on their return to the UK following a dramatic rise in coronavirus cases. Pictured: Tourists wearing face masks in Brittany earlier this week

Travellers from France could soon face a 14 days of self-isolation on their return to the UK following a dramatic rise in coronavirus cases. Pictured: Tourists wearing face masks in Brittany earlier this week

Two months of strict lockdown seemed to put the country on track in its fight against the pandemic - but it is now once again recording around 1,219 new cases a day (graphic showing growing number of daily coronavirus cases in France)

Two months of strict lockdown seemed to put the country on track in its fight against the pandemic – but it is now once again recording around 1,219 new cases a day (graphic showing growing number of daily coronavirus cases in France)

The country has already lost a total of more than 30,300 lives to the pandemic (graphic showing growing number of daily coronavirus deaths in France)

The country has already lost a total of more than 30,300 lives to the pandemic (graphic showing growing number of daily coronavirus deaths in France)

The developments in France come after its scientific committee stated earlier this week that the situation was ‘under control, but precarious. We could at any moment tip into a scenario that is less under control.’ 

It added: ‘The short term future of the pandemic mainly lies in the hands of the population. It is highly likely that we will experience a second epidemic wave this autumn or winter.’ 

The statement said the virus ‘has recently been circulating more actively, with an increased loss of distancing and barrier measures’ since France emerged from its strict two-month lockdown in May.

‘The balance is fragile and we can change course at any time to a less controlled scenario like in Spain for example,’ it said.      

The uptick in infections in France has been bolstered by fresh coronavirus testing troubles as dozens of labs closed to allow staff a summer holiday despite signs that a second wave is building.

Doctors have warned that the vacation crunch is just part of a larger web of failures in France’s testing strategy which was described earlier this week by the government’s own virus advisory panel as disorganized and ‘insufficient’.

‘First, there is a lack of workers to do the testing. If we don’t ask all the health workers to be available by mobilizing all of them, there are just not enough people,’ emergency services doctor Christophe Prudhomme at a hospital in Bobigny, Paris. 

‘And then it’s a matter of organization,’ he said, urging regional health agencies ‘to organize testing so that it’s not the citizen who has to take his phone and try to call seven or eight labs in order to get an appointment that will take place only next week.’

It is worrying news for the country which saw its hospitals nearly drown with Covid-19 patients in the first wave – in part due to inadequate testing.

The country has already lost more than 30,300 lives to the pandemic and yesterday alone recorded 1,695 new infections. 

A decision by the Government is expected to be announced within the next 24 hours after ministers consider the latest data as part of their weekly review of quarantine. 

Meanwhile, the Bahamas, Andorra and Belgium will be taken off the UK’s quarantine-exemption list.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said people arriving in Britain from the three nations will have to quarantine from 4am on Saturday.

It is thought that if the decision is made to add France to the list, thousands of British holidaymakers may cancel their trips in order to avoid the two-week quarantine. Pictured: Beach-goers in Saint Jean de Luz, southwestern France, yesterday

It is thought that if the decision is made to add France to the list, thousands of British holidaymakers may cancel their trips in order to avoid the two-week quarantine. Pictured: Beach-goers in Saint Jean de Luz, southwestern France, yesterday

In a tweet he said: ‘Data shows we need to remove Andorra, Belgium and The Bahamas from our list of coronavirus Travel Corridors in order to keep infection rates DOWN.

‘If you arrive in the UK after 0400 Saturday from these destinations, you will need to self-isolate for 14 days.’ 

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has designated all Belgium as a ‘code orange’ for the new coronavirus, meaning the number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants is 20 or above for two weeks. 

Separately, Malaysia and Brunei have been added to the UK’s safe list 

It comes after travellers from Belgium were also told they could face quarantine for 14 days following a dramatic rise in coronavirus infections there. Pictured: People wearing face masks walk through the shopping district of Brussels earlier this week

It comes after travellers from Belgium were also told they could face quarantine for 14 days following a dramatic rise in coronavirus infections there. Pictured: People wearing face masks walk through the shopping district of Brussels earlier this week

In Wales, the restrictions come into force from midnight tonight August 6.

At the same time, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has updated its travel advice to warn against all but essential trips to Andorra, Belgium and The Bahamas.

** Are you a British tourist concerned about an upcoming holiday to France? Please email: mark.duell@mailonline.co.uk ** 

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Brunei and Malaysia have been added to the Government’s travel corridor list, following a decrease in confirmed cases of coronavirus, meaning arrivals from these countries no longer need to quarantine.

Figures released on Thursday show Belgium has suffered a consistent increase in cases in recent weeks, rising to 27.8 new cases per 100,000 people.

This towers over the UK’s latest rate of 8.4 per 100,000, and is higher than Spain’s 27.4 level around the time when the UK introduced travel restrictions there.

Belgium’s prime minister, Sophie Wilmes, was last week forced to put a halt to the nation’s Covid-19 exit plan by introducing drastic new social distancing measures in the hope of avoiding a new national lockdown.

Contacts outside every household were limited to the same five people for a month, in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.

In Andorra, new cases per week have increased five-fold since mid-July, while in The Bahamas the weekly case rate peaked at 78.6 last week, up from 3.1 in the middle of last month.

The countries follow Spain – which was put on the quarantine list a fortnight ago, wrecking the holiday plans of millions – and Luxembourg, which was added last week. 

The number of new cases in Belgium doubled in a week following earlier success in bringing the virus under control in the country

The number of new cases in Belgium doubled in a week following earlier success in bringing the virus under control in the country

The decision will cause problems for thousands of people who travel each day on the Eurostar between Brussels and London, as well as those on flights connecting the two countries.

It comes after the number of new cases in Belgium doubled in a week following earlier success in bringing the virus under control in the country.

Some 9,852 people have died of the disease, giving Belgium the highest mortality rate, per capita, in the world. 

It has had 85 fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by Britain with 68, Spain 61, Peru 61, and Italy 58.

Men walk through the entrance of meat processing plant Westvlees, in Westrozebeke, part of Staden, Belgium, on Wednesday after several employees of the plant were tested positive for coronavirus

Men walk through the entrance of meat processing plant Westvlees, in Westrozebeke, part of Staden, Belgium, on Wednesday after several employees of the plant were tested positive for coronavirus

How Covid-19 cases have changed in Spain, Belgium, Finland, Greece, France, Ireland, Germany, Italy, the UK, Luxembourg and Europe overall. The biweekly growth rate on any given date measures the percentage change in the number of new confirmed cases over the last 14 days relative to the number in the previous 14 days

How Covid-19 cases have changed in Spain, Belgium, Finland, Greece, France, Ireland, Germany, Italy, the UK, Luxembourg and Europe overall. The biweekly growth rate on any given date measures the percentage change in the number of new confirmed cases over the last 14 days relative to the number in the previous 14 days

The biweekly map shows how most countries in Europe have reported between a 25 and 200 per cent increase in cases in the past two weeks

The biweekly map shows how most countries in Europe have reported between a 25 and 200 per cent increase in cases in the past two weeks

New confirmed infections there rose to an average of 448.1 per day in the last week of July, which was a 104 per cent increase on the previous seven days. 

As many as half of the new cases have been in Antwerp, where a night-time curfew has been imposed and restrictions on where residents can meet have been brought back in.

Ministers are also monitoring spikes in other countries, including Croatia, Romania, Hong Kong amid fears of a second wave.  

Belgium follows Spain – which was put on the quarantine list a fortnight ago, wrecking the holiday plans of millions – and Luxembourg, which was added last week. Pictured: People wearing face masks walk through the centre of Brussels

Belgium follows Spain – which was put on the quarantine list a fortnight ago, wrecking the holiday plans of millions – and Luxembourg, which was added last week. Pictured: People wearing face masks walk through the centre of Brussels

The British Government has been under pressure to introduce airport coronavirus tests for arrivals.

Ministers are looking at whether people coming to the UK from at-risk countries such as the US and Spain could be given tests to reduce the number of days they have to quarantine for.

And the boss of Heathrow airport has proposed a double-testing regime that would see passengers tested at their point of entry to the country, and again five to eight days later.

If given the all clear in both tests, they would no longer be required to stay at home for 14 days and could go back to normal life.

France’s covid testing teams down tools – for summer holidays: Laboratory staff head off on vacation just as signs of a second wave strike leaving country struggling with demands for tests

France is facing new coronavirus testing troubles as dozens of labs close to allow staff a summer holiday despite signs that a second wave is building.

Doctors have warned that the vacation crunch is just part of a larger web of failures in France’s testing strategy which was described earlier this week by the government’s own virus advisory panel as disorganized and ‘insufficient’.

‘First, there is a lack of workers to do the testing. If we don’t ask all the health workers to be available by mobilizing all of them, there are just not enough people,’ emergency services doctor Christophe Prudhomme at a hospital in Bobigny, Paris. 

‘And then it’s a matter of organization,’ he said, urging regional health agencies ‘to organize testing so that it’s not the citizen who has to take his phone and try to call seven or eight labs in order to get an appointment that will take place only next week.’

It is worrying news for the country which saw its hospitals nearly drown with Covid-19 patients in the first wave – in part due to inadequate testing.

The country has already lost more than 30,300 lives to the pandemic and yesterday alone recorded 1,695 new infections.

A second wave also appears to be sweeping across the rest of Europe as countries such as Germany, Spain and Greece all see spikes in their infection rates with the global death toll yesterday topping 700,000.

France is facing new coronavirus testing troubles as dozens of labs close to allow staff a summer holiday despite signs that a second wave is building (biologist pictured earlier this week taking a swab sample from a man in Lille, northern France)

France is facing new coronavirus testing troubles as dozens of labs close to allow staff a summer holiday despite signs that a second wave is building (biologist pictured earlier this week taking a swab sample from a man in Lille, northern France)

In France, doctor’s offices and labs have joined dozens of other businesses in closing for staff to enjoy a summer vacation.

Those labs that have remained open have seen lengthy socially-distanced queues building up outside as people struggle to book a test appointment. 

It is worrying news for the country which saw renowned hospitals nearly drown with Covid-19 patients in the first wave – in part due to inadequate testing – and has already lost more than 30,300 lives to the pandemic. 

Two months of strict lockdown seemed to put the country on track in its fight against the pandemic.

But it is now once again recording around 1,219 new cases a day when, just two weeks ago, the seven-day rolling average was 719. 

Yesterday, France recorded 1,695 new infections. 

The number of patients in intensive care is also edging up for the first time in months.  

In France, doctor's offices and labs have joined dozens of other businesses in closing for staff to enjoy a summer vacation (poster pictured shows special summer opening hours at a medical laboratory in Ville D'array, France)

In France, doctor’s offices and labs have joined dozens of other businesses in closing for staff to enjoy a summer vacation (poster pictured shows special summer opening hours at a medical laboratory in Ville D’array, France)

The government did not order anyone to skip vacation, which French workers see as a hard-won, fundamental right. Pictured: Two women wearing face masks leave a temporary testing centre for coronavirus in Ripollet earlier today

 The government did not order anyone to skip vacation, which French workers see as a hard-won, fundamental right. Pictured: Two women wearing face masks leave a temporary testing centre for coronavirus in Ripollet earlier today

The nation’s scientific committee recently said that the situation was ‘under control, but precarious. We could at any moment tip into a scenario that is less under control.’ 

It added: ‘The short term future of the pandemic mainly lies in the hands of the population. It is highly likely that we will experience a second epidemic wave this autumn or winter.’ 

The statement said the virus ‘has recently been circulating more actively, with an increased loss of distancing and barrier measures’ since France emerged from its strict two-month lockdown in May.  

‘The balance is fragile and we can change course at any time to a less controlled scenario like in Spain for example,’ it said. 

France is in better shape than last time to keep ahead of new infections but experts have warned that testing is key.

‘The virus didn’t disappear at all… The contamination is continuing, and amplifying in some regions,’ said Francois Blanchecotte, president of the Union of Medical Biologists, who has been in the forefront of French testing efforts. 

‘We have to adapt the testing strategy to this evolution.’  

 

 

France is not the only country which appears to be suffering a second wave as Covid-19 cases rise across Europe including in Germany, Greece and Spain

France is not the only country which appears to be suffering a second wave as Covid-19 cases rise across Europe including in Germany, Greece and Spain

He is now pushing for a more targeted policy that takes into account lab capacities, such as organizing tests at beach resorts or tourist sites where young people are congregating. 

Blanchecotte said he was particularly annoyed at a blanket government campaign to test 1.5 million Parisians to better understand how the virus is spreading. 

The free test vouchers were distributed just as dozens of labs shut down for vacation which has worsened bottlenecks.

How Germany is tackling its second wave 

Germany will require people arriving from countries considered high-risk to take coronavirus tests starting this weekend, the health minister said earlier today. 

German officials have voiced alarm over a steady upward creep in the number of new infections over recent weeks. 

The national disease control centre, the Robert Koch Institute, said 1,045 cases were recorded on Wednesday — the first time since May 7 that it has counted more than 1,000 cases in a day.

Pictured: Employees of an aid organisation at a newly established coronavirus testing station in Dortmund, western Germany, earlier this week

Pictured: Employees of an aid organisation at a newly established coronavirus testing station in Dortmund, western Germany, earlier this week

Daily figures can be volatile or distorted by delays in reporting, and the number is still far short of the peak of more than 6,000 reached in early April.

‘What we are seeing is a lot of small outbreaks,’ Health Minister Jens Spahn told reporters. ‘People are getting infected at family parties, at their place of work or at community facilities.’

On top of that, school holidays — the dates of which are staggered across Germany’s 16 states — are ending in some regions, increasing concerns that vacationers could bring home the virus.

Last Saturday, the government started offering free tests for people returning to the country.

People entering from countries deemed high-risk — currently most of the world outside Europe, as well as Luxembourg and parts of northern Spain — are required to quarantine for 14 days unless they can present a negative test result no more than two days old.

Spahn said that, starting Saturday, people arriving from those countries will be required to take a test unless they bring a new test result with them.

‘I am very well aware that this impinges on individual freedoms, but I believe that this is a justifiable intervention,’ Spahn said.

The minister dismissed arguments by some politicians that people who can afford a vacation should also have to pay for their tests.

He said many returnees from high-risk and other countries ‘have saved hard for this vacation, put a lot of money aside, don’t have a lot in reserve — and nevertheless, I want to make it possible for them to get tested.’

Travellers who refuse tests could face fines of up to 25,000 euros ($ 29,600), but the exact amount is up to local authorities, Spahn said.

Germany’s COVID-19 response has been widely regarded as relatively successful. The Robert Koch Institute has recorded 9,175 deaths from over 213,000 confirmed cases – a lower death rate than in many comparable countries. 

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‘We are at a crossroads. We’ve seen a situation of disorder in Paris, in which labs were not ready to face thousands of people at the same time. It’s a nightmare to get an appointment,’ Blanchecotte said. 

The government did not order anyone to skip vacation, which French workers see as a hard-won, fundamental right. 

But it issued a special decree late last month authorizing certain medical students, firefighters and rescue workers to administer coronavirus nasal swabs in their absence.  

That was too late to stop an outbreak in the town of Quiberon in the western region of Brittany which was seemingly spurred by a night club party last month.

Authorities urged everyone in the area to get tested — a mammoth task on a peninsula where the population swells from 5,000 to 60,000 in the summer. 

Some partygoers were foiled by long lines at a makeshift testing station and gave up, allowing the virus to continue spreading.  

In Paris, City Hall is trying to relieve the summer strain on labs with a mobile testing site at a beach venue on the La Villette canal, where crowds lined up Wednesday even before it opened. 

Some labs have adjusted their hours to stay open late into the evening, or open on Sundays – both unusual for France.

After coming under fire for its limited testing capacity in the first wave, the government now says it can test up to 700,000 people a week, and last week hit a record high of 457,000 tests.

But the number of new positive cases is growing twice as fast as the growth in test rates, according to data from the national health agency.

Blanchecotte is worried but defended the decision to let lab staff take holiday time. 

‘For months, they worked overtime to keep up with virus testing needs’, he said with many staggering holiday departures or scaling back their vacation plans.

But he warned that autumn may be even worse: ‘We know that September, October, November are difficult months. We need to be prepared.’ 

France is not the only country which appears to be suffering a second wave as Covid-19 cases rise across Europe with the global death toll yesterday topping 700,000. 

The head of Germany’s doctors’ union declared on Tuesday that the country is already in the midst of ‘a second, shallow upswing’ because people have flouted social distancing rules.  

Two weeks ago the average number of new daily infections was 460 but just yesterday the country recorded 1,024. 

Ms Johna said there was a danger that a longing to return to normality and a suppression of containment measures would fritter away the success Germany had achieved so far, urging people to stick to social distancing and hygiene rules and wear masks.

Similarly, cases in Greece have spiked to a three-month high of 121 new infections on Tuesday with a further 119 recorded yesterday.

Greece’s prime minister warned earlier this week that new restrictions may be needed if a worrying rise in daily cases does not abate. 

‘Any form of complacency is unjustified,’ Kyriakos Mitsotakis said. ‘We still don’t know how… many months we will be forced to live with the virus.’

Spain, which is currently the worst-hit nation in Europe, saw 8,500 new cases over the weekend and recorded another 2,953 just yesterday.

An all-inclusive resort in Majorca was shutdown after ten staff fell sick with the virus and two towns north of Madrid have been put under strict lockdown.   

Italy – once the sickman of Europe – has managed to avoid an uptick but two cruise ships are now quarantined in the Civitavecchia port in Rome. 

** Are you a British tourist concerned about an upcoming holiday to France? Please email us your story and picture to: mark.duell@mailonline.co.uk ** 


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