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Tory grandees slam government’s ‘unfair’ lack of clarity over France quarantine

Senior Conservative MPs have slammed the government for their ‘unfair’ lack of clarity over quarantine plans, amid fears that France could be added to the list after a spike in infections.

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs, and former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith have called for a ‘proper testing regime for air travellers’ to be implemented as quickly as possible, and for regional air corridors to be considered.

It comes as Chancellor Rishi Sunak warned holidaymakers of the risk of travelling abroad during the coronavirus crisis amid concerns France may be the next nation to be added to the quarantine list.

He said on Friday that ministers will ‘not hesitate’ in ordering travellers coming back from countries with high Covid-19 rates to isolate for 14 days, as Belgium, Andorra and The Bahamas lost their exempted status.

Travellers returning to the UK from those three nations from Saturday must enter quarantine, and there are fears those coming back from France could be next with cases there increasing.

France recorded over 2,200 confirmed coronavirus infections yesterday, a new daily record since the lockdown was lifted in June. 

Sir Graham told The Telegraph leaving the public in the dark on the matter is ‘grossly unfair’.

‘We should move to a proper testing regime for air travellers as quickly as possible, but in the meantime it is essential that the Government is as transparent as possible about the criteria which are being used judging which countries require quarantine and which do not.

‘Leaving the travelling public in the dark is grossly unfair and is causing further damage to the holiday and leisure sector,’ he said.

Sir Iain added that holidaymakers needed more information and for it to be clearer so they could make better informed decisions about whether to travel abroad.

He also called on the Government to reconsider regional travel corridors and testing to replace the ‘blunt’ approach of quarantine.

‘People are travelling to countries at the moment and they have no idea whether they will or will not have quarantine reimposed,’ he told the paper.

‘My only question is can the Government not look at regional quarantine so that people could travel to low-risk areas like Majorca but not Barcelona?’

The comments come as Eurostar said it recorded an increase in passengers travelling on its trains from Brussels to London on Friday, beating the deadline.

Mr Sunak told Sky News: ‘It’s a tricky situation. What I can say to people is we’re in the midst of a global pandemic and that means there is always the risk of disruption to travel plans and people need to bear that in mind.

‘It’s the right thing for us to do to keep everything under review on a constant basis talking with our scientists, our medical advisers, and if we need to take action as you’ve seen overnight we will of course not hesitate to do that and we’re doing that to protect people’s health.’

France’s coronavirus rate has increased steadily in the past month to 13.2 new infections per 100,000 people, suggesting the spread is worse than in the UK, which has a rate of 8.4.

However, France still appears to be faring better than Belgium, which has seen its rate soar to 27.8. It also has a rate lower than Spain’s when it was added to the restriction list at around 27.4.

On Thursday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said rising Covid-19 infection levels in Belgium, Andorra and The Bahamas meant they would be added to the quarantine list.

The measures come into force in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland from 4am on Saturday after they were introduced in Wales from Friday.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office also updated its travel advice to warn against all but essential trips to the three countries.

The Department for Transport clarified that people driving to the UK from Germany or the Netherlands via Belgium will need to self-isolate for 14 days unless, while in Belgium, all passengers remain in their car and no-one joins them.

Anyone who travels on a train which passengers get on or off in Belgium will also need to quarantine.

This means Eurostar passengers travelling from Amsterdam to London will need to self-isolate, as the journey involves changing trains in Brussels.

Elsewhere, 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.

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.

Holidaymakers pleaded for ministers to make a decision on the France quarantine, after the country confirmed 2,288 new cases and 12 deaths today.

Lockdown-weary sunseekers angling for a summer break in France have begged for clarity after claims the country is ‘highly likely’ to be added to the 14-day quarantine list following a dramatic rise in infections.

Some said a potential quarantine would risk children not starting school in September.

Others said they were ‘praying’ that the Foreign Office’s travel advice does not change and that the country’s border remains upon for British travellers.

Jane Stone said her family of six, including two grandparents, their daughter and three grandchildren booked to go to a holiday park in France in August, as they do each year.

Their holiday from August 21 was booked last October, long before any mention of coronavirus. 

Ms Stone told MailOnline today: ‘We cannot cancel, without losing our money, and find ourselves stuck waiting for a Government decision.

‘Our son is already in the Dordogne, and as far as I am aware, oblivious to the current situation.’  

Mother-of-two Becca Pountney, of Bedfordshire-based Engage Weddings, said her parents have an apartment in the South of France and she was due to drive to the country for the end of the summer holidays.

She decided to go there because it was much cheaper for her than trying to holiday in the UK ‘where the prices are high and there are so many people’.

Ms Pountney added: ‘I own my own business as a wedding blogger and consultant to the wedding industry, so I have spent the last four months supporting couples and business owners who have had their whole year in business destroyed or had their wedding days cancelled.

‘I’m just ready for a break and now it’s looking increasingly unlikely we will make it. I have two children who haven’t been to school since March and I don’t want the quarantine to impact their return to school.

‘I understand it’s risky trying to holiday in a pandemic – but we just need the government to make a decision soon so we can work out what happens next.’

Matt Richards wrote on Twitter today: ‘Yes, a potential quarantine for me and my wife is not the end of the world. But 14 days quarantine would mean my children would miss the first week back at school and they’ve been off since March.’ 

Rachel Arnold, of Cheshire, said: ‘We want to go to France next week, Charente area, low Covid. Staying at a secluded house, no one else there. Thinking now not to go as ‘threat’ of quarantine looming. Ironically can’t afford to do a ten-day holiday here.’ 

And Sarah Eaves, from North London, tweeted: ‘Please make a decision on France in the next 24 hours before thousands of us with families go on holiday and risk children not starting school. Quarantine means we can cancel and get ££ back.’  

Another worried holidaymaker, Emma Lewis, tweeted: ‘We’re due to drive through France to get to Italy in early September. Praying the French border stays open and FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) advice for France doesn’t change.’

But Michael Porter, of Halifax, West Yorkshire, said he had cancelled a trip on Tuesday to go to France this Saturday for his wife’s 60th birthday. 

And Twitter user Jamie, from London, said: ‘As father of the bride I have a wedding to attend in France on the 17th, so yes I’ll be going but need to work on my return or go bankrupt. So pay the fine or hire a pedalo.’

Meanwhile Matt Groombridge, from Deal, Kent, said: ‘Two-week quarantine imminent travelling to/from France… holiday was timed well, and it means I’ll get some peace and quiet on the ferry again.’ 

The number of daily coronavirus cases in the country has risen in recent days, with 1,695 new infections being recorded just yesterday, as it battles to avoid a second wave of Covid-19. The seven-day rolling average of confirmed cases has doubled from under 10 per million of population on Jul 21 to 19.33 yesterday. By contrast the UK’s is around 12 cases per million people.  

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