British holidaymakers are facing a frantic rush to try and return from France before the deadline imposed by the government comes into effect requiring 14 days quarantine.
Boris Johnson’s late decision to take France off the government’s “green list” of countries means up to 400,000 Briton’s have until 4am tomorrow (Saturday) to get back to the UK to avoid having to self-isolate for two-weeks, or face a fine for not complying.
The sudden announcement echoes that made three weeks ago to remove Spain from the “green list” which then gave holidaymakers just six hours notice of the introduction of quarantine restrictions.
‘All but essential travel’
The list shows which countries and territories are “exempt from advice against ‘all but essential’ international travel” and was updated last night to remove France, the Netherlands, Monaco, Malta, Turks & Caicos and Aruba as UK officials responded to a “significant change in Covid-19 risk” in those states.
Paris has been designated a “red zone” by the French government and local authorities have been given powers to impose lockdowns and travel restrictions after 2,699 new infections in 24 hours was reported by France’s health ministry on Thursday.
Travel industry left reeling by late announcement
Travel companies are scrambling to respond to the sudden change in quarantine rules with Airlines UK calling it “another devastating blow to the travel industry already reeling from the worst crisis in its history”.
The group represents the biggest airlines operating out of the UK and urged the government to end its “broad-brush, weekly stop-and-go changes to travel corridors at a national level, which have proven so disruptive to airlines and passengers alike”.
Airlines UK want ministers to introduce a new testing system for passengers and the London-based World Travel & Tourism Council has accused the UK of “lagging behind other countries” on testing rather than quarantining measures.
The council said: “While we agree public health should remain the top priority, this move will crush what little confidence there is left in the fragile travel and tourism sector.”
Covid has cost more than £250bn already
The UN World Tourism Organization estimates the pandemic cost the global travel industry almost £250 billion between January and May – already three times the total bill for the 2008 financial crisis – and the picture looks even bleaker for subsequent months.
A spokesperson for Abta said the “announcements relating to Spain and now France impact the two biggest destinations for British holidaymakers at the height of the summer season.”
Abta say a “plan is urgently needed to protect the 221,000 jobs the travel industry sustain” especially now at “this time of recession”.
Johnson said on Thursday the UK government would be “absolutely ruthless” about imposing quarantine measures and restrictions, even with “our closet and dearest partners”.
“We can’t be remotely complacent about our own situation,” said the PM during a visit to Northern Ireland. “Everybody understands that in a pandemic you don’t allow our population to be reinfected or the disease to come back in.”
Stock market travel industry sell-off
The stock market responded to the news today (Friday) with a massive sell-off wiping around £2 billion off the value of Europe’s travel and leisure industry.
International Airlines Group (IAG) – the owners of British Airways and other airlines – lost 6% in early trading while Tui, Europe’s largest tour operator, fell 4.7%, Ryanair was down 4.5% and easyJet slipped 7%.
The widespread sell-off also affected suppliers, merchants and operators connected to the travel sector with aeroplane engine makers Rolls Royce, airport retailer WH Smith and Eurotunnel operators Getlink all seeing their value fall as the FTSE 100 closed down 2.1% overall.