Sunday, 17 Jan 2021

Chaos as Scotland, Wales and England take different stances on Greece quarantine

Travellers returning to the UK from Greece and Zante are facing ‘chaos and confusion’ after Scotland, Wales and England all took different approaches to quarantine following a rise in cases. 

The Scottish Government announced tonight that new arrivals would enter 14 days of isolation from Thursday, while Wales has already begun asking arrivals from the Greek island of Zante to begin the period of quarantine.

But England is continuing to allow travellers to arrive from Greece without self isolating, with the Department for Transport saying no changes had been made to its rules for England on Tuesday. 

Tonight passengers landing at Cardiff International Airport on a flight from Zante were being asked to self-isolate for 14 days, as the Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething pressed for a meeting with the UK Government to reconsider the rules for mainland Greece.

The move came as holidaymakers scrambled to return from Portugal amid growing concerns restrictions could be reimposed to arrivals from there.

The consumer group Which? blasted the Government’s approach to quarantining countries, claiming it was damaging the travel industry and leaving holidaymakers confused.

Travel editor Rory Boland said: ‘Yet again haphazard announcements and rumours around quarantine have sparked chaos and confusion for holidaymakers, with many facing an unenviable choice between paying extortionate prices for last-minute flights home or the disruption caused by two weeks in isolation on their return.

‘When the dust settles on what has been a disappointing summer for so many people, it’s clear that a reassessment of the Government’s approach to managing the threat posed by coronavirus to holiday travel will be needed.

‘The travel industry will also need greater Government support to make it through the tough months ahead while major reforms will be needed to restore confidence among holidaymakers who have often been left out of pocket and with nowhere to turn for support when the pandemic has left their travel plans in tatters.’

Restrictions for Greece were lifted in England in July when international exemptions were first permitted.

There were 14.0 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people in Greece in the seven days to August 31, down from 14.9 a week earlier.

A seven-day rate of 20 is the threshold above which the UK Government considers triggering quarantine conditions.

Scottish Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf, announcing the restriction, said the ‘importations of new cases from Greece is a significant risk to public health’.

He said ‘regular discussions continue’ with the other three UK governments over restrictions.

The measures in Scotland will come into effect at 4am on Thursday.

A number of cases in Scotland can be traced back to travel to the Mediterranean country.

Meanwhile Wales’ Mr Gething said six clusters amounting to more than 30 cases of Covid-19 in the last week had come from four flights, two of which landed in England.

‘There are concerns from our public health teams that the current advice and control measures for returning travellers are insufficient,’ he said.

He said that all passengers on a flight from Zante to Cardiff will be told to quarantine and would be given two Covid-19 tests, one within 48 hours and another after eight days from their return.

‘In addition, I have pressed for an early meeting with the UK Government and devolved nations tomorrow to consider the latest assessment of risk by the Joint Biosecurity Centre,’ he said.

‘There is an obvious need for us to consider the potential for changes to the regulations in Wales which would require travellers arriving in the UK from Greece and possibly elsewhere to self-isolate on their return.’

The Joint Biosecurity Centre was yet to change the risk rating for Greece but the data for the nation, like all others, was being kept under constant review.

Tourists in Zante are already facing new restrictions after the rise in cases – which came to public attention after everyone on board a flight returning from the island was forced to quarantine after at least 16 cases were confirmed.

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