Switzerland could be added to the UK’s quarantine travel list as soon as this weekend after a surge in coronavirus cases as Tory MPs demand the Government back airport testing to reduce the 14-day self-isolation period.
Case numbers in Switzerland now stand at 20.7 per 100,000 people – above the Government’s threshold of 20 per 100,000 at which countries are added to the ‘red list’. As a result, it is viewed as almost a certainty that all non-essential travel to the country from the UK will be banned in the coming days.
The prospect of ministers adding yet another nation to the ‘red list’ has prompted renewed demands from furious Tory MPs for the Government to change its ‘chaotic’ approach to border control. Ministers are under growing pressure to back testing on arrival at airports which advocates suggest could slash the 14-day quarantine to just five days.
More than 30 countries across the world already conduct testing at airports and senior Conservative backbenchers want to know why the UK cannot follow suit. Decisions on adding counties to the UK’s quarantine list have tended to be announced by ministers at the end of the week.
For example, the move to ban travel to Croatia, Austria and Trinidad & Tobago was made public on a Thursday afternoon before coming into effect at 4am on Saturday. The Times reported that Switzerland is likely to be added to the list this weekend with Scotland having already imposed self-isolation rules on travellers returning from the country. There are also fears that the Czech Republic and Greece could be banned after they have also recorded a spike in cases.
More than 30 countries – including Germany, Iceland and France – have already introduced airport testing for people arriving from high risk countries. Tory MPs want the UK to adopt a similar approach so that the blanket quarantine restrictions can be ditched. They believe the current approach is causing unnecessary damage to the aviation and travel industries. David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, told The Times: ‘The chaos of quarantine has shown that the Government’s short-term solution no longer works for the long-term problem of COVID-19.’
Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee, echoed a similar sentiment as he said quarantine had ’caused untold chaos and confusion for passengers, whilst dealing a hammer blow to the travel industry’. Andrew Griffith, Tory MP for Arundel and South Downs, said the current approach risks putting the UK at a ‘competitive disadvantage’.
A testing on arrival system, currently being piloted at Heathrow, would see people tested when they go through border control and then tested against three to five days later. Two negative tests would mean people could return to life as normal in under a week. Ministers have been reluctant to back the move because of fears that the system could miss people who may have only just been infected when they are tested.
The row over airport testing comes after the French government said it will this week impose reciprocal quarantine restrictions on travel from the UK. Britain added France to its ‘red list’ of banned countries on August 15 after a spike in coronavirus cases. All travellers returning from the country to the UK must stay at home for a fortnight and Paris is now poised to impose its own similar restrictions on people heading in the opposite direction.
Minister for European Affairs Clement Beaune yesterday signalled the tit-for-tat action will be set out in the coming days. ‘We will have a measure called reciprocity so that our British friends do not close the border in one single way,’ he told French TV station France 2, according to comments reported by Reuters.
‘For travellers returning from the United Kingdom, there will probably be restrictive measures decided in the next few days by the Prime Minister and by the Defence Council.’
Culled from Dailymail