Less than 60 hours ahead of 19 July, when international travel to amber list countries was set to become quarantine-free for travellers who were fully vaccinated by the NHS, the government announced that France would be left out of the scheme.
Fears about the “beta variant” of coronavirus in France led ministers to create new category for incoming travellers, effectively “amber plus”.
The sudden change in policy has thrown the plans of thousands of Britons in France into chaos, as anyone with a return trip planned from Monday had expected to arrive in the UK quarantine free.
Meanwhile, former health secretary Jeremy Hunt has warned that a long and drawn out third wave of infections could lead to an autumn lockdown.
Speaking on the Today programme on BBC 4 Mr Hunt said the government must be ready to “change directions” and bring back restrictions if Covid-19 infections reach 100,000 a day or more.
“The warning light on the NHS dashboard is not flashing amber, it’s flashing red,” he said. “Covid hospital patients are doubling every two weeks and, according to the Health Service Journal, that means we are heading for about 10,000 Covid hospital patients by the end of August which is about 20 times higher than last year.”
While he said it was unlikely for restrictions to be needed in August, as schools would be closed and many people would be spending more time outside, come September changes could be required to keep the virus under control.
“If they’re still going up as the schools are coming back, then I think we are going to have to reconsider some very difficult decisions,” he added.
“There is a lot of uncertainty, which is why it’s very important that the government is willing to change direction if that’s what the data says we have to do,” he added
Pavement dining and outdoor pint licences will continue in England for another year
Alfresco dining and takeaway pints will continue until September 2022 in England and Wales, the government has announced, as part of its new hospitality strategy.
The strategy will also include measures to tackle a labour shortage in the sector, which saw more than 350,000 jobs disappear since the pandemic began.
Nearly 10,000 licensed premises also closed as a result of the pandemic.
Business minister Paul Scully is set to chair a new Hospitality Sector Council to oversee the delivery of the strategy, alongside entrepreneur Karen Jones.
Celine Wadhera17 July 2021 10:44
Last-minute announcement around France quarantine causing “mass confusion” travel expert says
The last-minute announcement that fully vaccinated travellers returning from France must quarantine from Monday has caused “mass confusion” a travel expert has said.
Gemma Antrobus, from the Association of Independent Tour Operators, told BBC Breakfast that the change in policy was unexpected.
“This new level of traffic light, this fifth traffic light that we now have – amber plus – wasn’t something that’s ever been mentioned so nobody expected this to come,” she said.
“So really the travel industry are in as much shock as consumers are right now and we should just have to pick up the pieces and deal with it and help our clients through this pretty terrible situation.”
She added that “hundreds of thousands” could be affected by the change, including those who had been waiting to see family members.
“We mustn’t forget that this is not just about travelling for leisure purposes, this is also about reuniting families, who again will now have to wait months, possibly longer, before they can do so in a way that is free for them to return (and) not have to self-isolate.”
Celine Wadhera17 July 2021 10:25
Warnings of new autumn lockdown in ‘long drawn-out’ Covid wave
Lockdown measures may need to be reimposed in the autumn as Monday’s reopening could lead to a “long and drawn out” third wave of coronavirus, experts are warning.
Professor John Edmunds, a member of the government’s Sage scientific advisory committee, told BBC 4’s Today programme that the removal of restrictions in England from 19 July will delay the peak of the third wave of the virus.
He said that rather than the relatively rapid decline in infections seen after previous peaks, the UK could now face a “higher level of incidence for a protracted period right through the summer and probably through much of the autumn”.
Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt added that the government must be ready to “change directions” and bring back restrictions if infection rates hit 100,000 a day or more, particularly as Covid hospitalisations could reach 10,000 by the end of August.
Political editor Andrew Woodcock reports.
Celine Wadhera17 July 2021 10:06
European Tourism Association chief: changes to France quarantine rules ‘abrupt’ but ‘hardly surprising’
Tom Jenkins, the chief executive of the European Tourism Association said that the UK government’s decision to change quarantine rules in relation to France at the last minute was “abrupt” but “hardly surprising”.
Speaking on Times Radio, he said: “This Government really specialises in abrupt changes of policy but people who are describing shock and dismay really should have got used to this sort of thing occurring.
“Anyone with children in this country has been watching government policy change and switch and move direction and it’s hardly surprising that we’re seeing (this) now in the Channel area.”
He added that the current guidance was “vague” but said that the change in policy was nothing compared to the damage already caused to the tourism industry by the pandemic.
Celine Wadhera17 July 2021 09:47
‘Pingdemic’: Government urged to tackle Covid app havoc as thousands of workers self-isolate
Businesses and unions have called on the government to take action to tackle a rapid rise in the number of people being told to self-isolate.
The latest figures from the NHS show that more than 500,000 alerts were sent to users of the Test and Trace app in the week to 7 July, instructing them to self-isolate for 10 days after coming in close contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19.
Grocery giants Iceland and Sainsbury’s have reported increased absences and factories across the country have been impacted by hundreds of staff being told to isolate.
The Unite union warned of “havoc” on factory production lines and called on the government to bring Covid cases under control and ease the isolation requirements earlier than 16 august, when double-jabbed contacts of positive cases will no longer need to isolate.
Celine Wadhera17 July 2021 09:28
Police commissioners fear ‘freedom day’ will unlock
Police are bracing to deal with chaotic celebrations likened to “New Year’s Eve over and over and over again” as coronavirus restrictions are lifted across the country, writes home affairs correspondent Lizzy Dearden.
Following increases in violence and anti-social behaviour linked to pubs and bars in recent weeks, particularly around the Euros, police and crime commissioners have said they were “really concerned” as nightclubs are set to reopen on Monday and rules on social distancing and gatherings are scrapped.
Celine Wadhera17 July 2021 09:09
Explainer: new ‘amber plus’ stats for France with mandatory home quarantine
Following a change in government policy that will require all travellers – regardless of vaccination status – returning from France to quarantine in their own accommodation for 10 days and take two PCR tests, The Independent’s travel correspondent Simon Calder explains how these changes will affect summer holidays.
He writes that there should not be a rush home, as the rules for travellers returning from France will simply remain as they currently are.
Motorists travelling through France – even without stopping – will be regarded as arriving from France, and will also be subject to quarantine upon arrival in the UK.
An exception may be made for Eurostar rail passengers from Brussels, Rotterdam and Amsterdam, however, as long as no new passengers get on the train in France.
Celine Wadhera17 July 2021 08:50
Double-vaccinated travellers from France must still quarantine as ministers impose new ‘amber plus’ category
Double-vaccinated travellers returning from France must still quarantine as ministers impose a new “amber plus” travel category.
The decision was made based on fears around the “beta variant”, and now hundreds of thousands of travellers who were hoping for quarantine-free travel back from France have had their hopes dashed.
Unlike the rest of the amber list, from 4am on Monday arrivals from France must quarantine in their own accommodation for 10 days and complete two PCR tests, regardless of vaccination status.
The health secretary, Sajid Javid, said: “We have always been clear that we will not hesitate to take rapid action at our borders to stop the spread of Covid-19 and protect the gains made by our successful vaccination programme.
John Keefe, of Eurotunnel, which runs the Shuttle operation for cars between Folkestone and Calais, said: “This will ruin summer for many people”.
“It is disappointing that the government has cancelled the option of quarantine-free travel for double-vaccinated parents and their families so close to the school holidays and so soon after they had confirmed that travel to France was safe,” he added.
Celine Wadhera17 July 2021 08:34
Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s coronavirus pandemic coverage for 17 July 2021.
Celine Wadhera17 July 2021 08:16