Quarantine: Poland is leading candidate for no-go list

Italy and Greece are at the threshold set by the UK government for self-isolation

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Wednesday 30 September 2020 20:25 BST
Dark times: the deeper the colour, the higher the infection rate
Dark times: the deeper the colour, the higher the infection rate (European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control)

As holidaymakers and the travel industry wait to learn the latest additions to the UK’s “no-go” list, today’s figures for new infections indicate that Poland could soon be stripped of quarantine exemption.

The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, is expected to impose a self-isolation requirement for arriving travellers from one or more nations at 5pm on Thursday. At the same time, the Foreign Office will warn against travel to the affected locations.

As coronavirus infection rates rise across most European countries, more nations have moved above the UK government’s threshold of 20 new infections per 100,000 in a week.

Although the UK is now at 64 on that index, the chosen level has not changed – meaning that destinations such as Croatia are rated as “unacceptably high risk” even though their infection rates are less than half the UK’s.

Poland has had the worst week for new infections since the Covid-19 pandemic began, and now has a score of 24.4. Were the Department for Transport to add it to the no-go list, the impact would be significant for travellers with family links in both Poland and the UK – as well as airlines and airports. 

The number of flights between the two countries, and the passenger loads on them, are much higher than the current average.

According to figures compiled by The PC Agency from European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control data, both Italy and Greece are at the threshold set by the UK government for self-isolation – with rates at 20.1 and 20.5 respectively.

But unlike most European countries, the islands in each could make a difference. The governments in England, Wales and Northern Ireland already warn against travel to some Greek islands, while Scotland imposes quarantine on the whole of Greece. 

One possible outcome is that the mainland could be rated no-go while direct travel to islands such as Corfu, Kos and Rhodes is unaffected. 

Italy, which is currently open for travel, could be divided into the “safe” mainland and Sicily, which are below the threshold, while Sardinia has quarantine imposed.

Another potential candidate for the no-go list is Estonia. The Baltic republic had originally done outstandingly well at keeping the virus at bay, but since the start of August new cases have been increasing – a trend that has accelerated dramatically in the past 10 days.

If destinations are put on the no-go list, the change is likely take effect at 4am on Saturday 3 October. Anyone in an affected location who wishes to avoid quarantine must be back in the UK by this time.

Two other Mediterranean destinations, Cyprus and Turkey, are well below the UK threshold – at 10.8 and 13.4 respectively.

Some travel industry figures believe that a more substantial change to the UK’s quarantine policy could be made imminently.

The threshold was set when new infection rates for Britain and the rest of Europe were much lower than currently.

One view is that blanket quarantine could be reimposed.

Airlines and the wider travel industry are calling for testing to be included in the control measures, but the government has said existing tests are unreliable.

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