The UK updated its travel ‘green list’ on Tuesday, but did not take Portugal off the quarantine list, amid fears that France could soon join it as hospitalisations and cases rise.
In a blow to the Portuguese economy that benefits greatly from tourism from the UK, the UK Government was warned that cases in Portugal had not fallen fast enough to be able to safely add the country to the ‘green list’.
Portugal registered 120 new cases yesterday, down from 290 last Friday, but in the last 14 days, the cumulative number of cases per 100,000 rose to 24.6, its first increase in weeks, according to The Daily Telegraph.
Meanwhile, France reported the country’s first significant rise in the number of patients submitted to hospital due to coronavirus since the end of it’s lockdown in June.
The number of people in French hospitals with Covid-19 rose by 34 to 5,045 over the weekend, the nation’s health ministry announced on Monday.
On Tuesday, however, it leveled out again as 33 people with Covid-19 left hospital, leaving 5,012 patients in hospital with the disease, according France’s health ministry website.
French health authorities also reported 1,397 new COVID-19 infections over 24 hours on Tuesday, almost twice Monday’s tally of 785.
The rising coronavirus numbers in France have led to fears that the UK government could remove the country from the travel ‘green list’ this week, impacting potentially hundreds of thousands of Britons and their holiday plans.
An estimated 500,000 Britons in France could be forced to make a dash home or risk being forced to quarantine on their return to the UK.
Downing Street reminded potential holidaymakers on Monday that ‘there is no risk free way of travelling overseas’ with Prime Minister Boris Johnson adding that he ‘would not hesitate’ to bring in travel restrictions for other countries.
The latest data on coronavirus cases on foreign soil will be analysed by the Government’s Joint Biosecurity Centre (JCB), which meets today, and Downing Street’s decision on an updated quarantine list will be public in the coming days.
UK Ministers are believed to be planning new measures for a swathe of countries that also includes Switzerland, Poland and the Netherlands amid a surge in European coronavirus cases.
They could join Spain and its islands on the list of countries where returnees will face 14 days of self-isolation, possibly putting their jobs at risk.
It came as Boris Johnson warned that ministers will ‘not hesitate’ to impose a quarantine system for travellers from other countries to the UK if needed.
Speaking on a visit to a school in Upminster, Essex, he said: ‘I don’t want to advise people about their individual holidays, individual decisions, they should look at the travel advice from the Foreign Office clearly.
‘But what I will say, and I hope people would expect us to do this, in the context of a global pandemic, we’ve got to keep looking at the data in all the countries to which British people want to travel.
‘Where it is necessary to impose restrictions or to impose a quarantine system, we will not hesitate to do so.
Spain has already been hit with new travel restrictions in a blow to its tourism-reliant economy, while there are fears that France, Germany or Holland could be put back on the UK’s quarantine list after spikes in cases there.
Summer holidays have been blamed for rising cases in Germany and Italy, while France has tightened its face mask rules in tourist hotspots such as Paris and the Mediterranean resort of Saint Tropez.
However, Europe has yet to see a major spike in deaths or hospital cases, amid signs that many of those testing positive are young and less vulnerable to the disease.
France has piled up 10,002 new cases in the last week, the highest number since April and a sharp increase from 7,391 the week before.
The government’s Covid-19 scientific council warned last week that France could ‘at any moment’ lose control over the spread of the disease.
The government did add some countries to the green list – Malaysia and Brunei.
In addition to the new cases of coronavirus infections, France’s Health Ministry website said there were 15 new deaths in hospital due the disease, compared to an increase of 16 over a three-day period between Monday and Saturday, with the total death toll standing at 30,354.
The number of people hospitalised for the disease went down again after creeping up Monday for the first time in two and a half months.
In response to the rising figures, France’s prime minister said on Tuesday he wanted more masks worn in public places to prevent ‘a high risk of epidemic resumption’ as health authorities warned coronavirus circulation was picking up again.
Visiting the southern city of Montpellier, Jean Castex said the country must act collectively, and ‘vigorously’ to beat back a pandemic that has already claimed more than 30,300 lives in France.
He also admitted that the country’s coronavirus figures were ‘going the wrong way’.
To this end, he will ask local authorities ‘to extend as far as possible the obligation to wear masks in public spaces.’
Local authorities have been given the legal authority to impose mask-wearing on citizens.
Masks are already obligatory nationwide on public transport and in enclosed spaces such as shops, banks and government offices.
Some cities and towns have also made them compulsory in certain outdoor spaces, such as along the banks of the Seine River in Paris and around its main tourist hotspots.
Castex said that unless French people acted individually and collectively, ‘we expose ourselves to a high risk of epidemic resumption that will be difficult to control.
‘It will once again put pressure on… hospital services, it will also place pressure on our economy, our education system, our collective and cultural life,’ he said after taking part in a meeting of President Emmanuel Macron’s defence council of senior ministers to discuss the virus.
He also announced that a ban on public gatherings of more than 5,000 people, such as sporting events or concerts, will now run until October 30 and not be lifted at the end of this month as originally planned.
Over the weekend, some 10,000 people flouted the ban to gather for an illegal rave party on a remote mountain plateau in France’s least populated department, the Lozere, sparking anger from locals so far spared the worst of the outbreak.
France’s health ministry said Monday that 10,800 new coronavirus cases had been identified in the past week, and warned that ‘circulation of the virus is intensifying, notably among young people and in certain regions such as the metropolitan areas of Paris and Marseille.’
It said mask wearing was ‘a gesture of common sense’ in crowded places and when a safe physical distance between people cannot be observed.
‘Adolescents and young adults, less at risk of developing serious forms of the disease, can contribute to spreading it and infecting their loved ones – parents, grandparents and other vulnerable people for whom the consequences could be serious,’ the ministry said.