Italy, Greece and Sweden could be added to UK quarantine list

Italy, Greece and Sweden face being added to UK quarantine this week – but ministers mull slashing wait time from two weeks to eight days

  • Italy, Sweden and Germany are all above the Government’s infection threshold
  • They are likely to be added to the growing ‘red’ list of high-risk countries 
  • Quarantine could be slashed to eight days if travellers receive a negative test
  • New arrivals will have to go into self-isolation, but can end it with a test on day 8

Italy, Greece and Sweden could be added to the UK’s quarantine list this week amid the continued surge in coronavirus cases across Europe.

The countries would be added to the ‘red’ list of high-risk destinations, but it comes as the Government is considering slashing quarantine from 14 days to eight days.

A negative test on the eight day after returning from a high-risk country would allow the period of self-isolation to end.

Italy, Greece and Sweden could be added to the UK’s quarantine list this week amid the continued surge in coronavirus cases across Europe. Pictured: tourists outside St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City

Italy’s cumulative number of cases over seven days – a key metric watched by Downing Street – hit 25.6 per 100,000 residents

But the shortened isolation will be of little solace to families looking to take half-term holidays as the number of ‘red’ countries grows. 

Italy’s cumulative number of cases over seven days – a key metric watched by Downing Street – hit 25.6 per 100,000 residents. In Greece, it is 22.3 and Sweden, which adopted fewer restrictive lockdown measures, is 31.7. The Government’s threshold is said to be 20. 

The Daily Mail’s Get Britain Flying Again campaign is calling for an air passenger testing regime to rescue the aviation sector and boost the virus-ravaged economy.

It is hoped the new eight-day quarantine could come into effect before Christmas, and the tests would be paid for by travellers, according to The Telegraph. 

Speaking at the Tory party conference yesterday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he would be saying more about testing ‘shortly’

The Government is said to be sceptical about testing on the fifth day, a model adopted by Germany and Iceland,  because 15 per cent of infections would be missed.

Testing on the eight day results in a 95 per cent accuracy, Ministers say. 

Speaking at the Tory party conference yesterday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he would be saying more about testing ‘shortly’.

He said: ‘The next stage of course is to enable testing, which people sometimes wrongly think is a very straightforward thing, why don’t you just test people at the airport? You know they’re clear; let people in, job done.

‘The answer is that in somebody who’s asymptomatic, not displaying any symptoms, that won’t find a very large proportion of cases.

‘In fact, studies show, if you check somebody on the first day that they arrive, probably just find seven per cent of people who actually do have the virus.

Sweden, which did not impose a full national lockdown, is seeing a rise in infections in line with many other European countries

‘So we’ve got to be smarter than that and the way to do that is to still have a period of quarantine, but also test and then be able to release people, and I’ll be saying more about that shortly.’

Ministers have so far resisted applying restrictions to Italy, Sweden and Greece, arguing that rising infection rates are down to an increase in testing.

But industry leaders fear this could change by the end of the week because the proportion of positive tests is rising.

In Greece, 2.9 per cent of those tested are positive. In Italy and Sweden the rate has hit 2.2 per cent.

Testing positivity is one of the criteria examined by the Government when it makes decisions over quarantine.

Sweden encouraged social distancing measures but kept much of its economy open throughout the pandemic (pictured, a Stockholm shopping centre)

European Commission guidance recommends quarantine restrictions should be applied to a country if its rate exceeds three per cent. Downing Street is thought to apply a similar threshold.

Germany is also at risk of quarantine restraints, having yesterday logged 18.4 infections per 100,000 people.

The addition of more popular holiday destinations to the quarantine list would leave most of Europe subject to restrictions.

It will intensify pressure on the Government to unveil an air passenger testing regime to boost traveller confidence and salvage autumn and winter bookings.

Italy, Greece and Sweden could get added to the quarantine list in the Department for Transport’s weekly update on Thursday evening.

There is speculation that Shapps is planning to soften the blow by making a long-awaited announcement about plans for trials of air passenger testing.

One rumour is that a pilot scheme will be announced for flights between London and New York, the world’s most profitable air route and an important link for trade.

Italy, Greece and Sweden could get added to the quarantine list in the Department for Transport’s weekly update on Thursday evening

Aviation insiders say autumn and winter sales – usually a busy period for winter sun and ski bookings – are looking ‘dire’ as the ever-changing quarantine rules have stifled demand.

There are mounting concerns some airlines could be forced to lay off staff and mothball their fleets to save money should passenger numbers continue to stagnate.

Travel consultant Paul Charles, of the PC Agency, told the Daily Mail: ‘We are in danger of heading back to a blanket quarantine.

‘The last of the major European countries could get added to the quarantine list this week and that is why we urgently need a testing solution. An announcement couldn’t come any sooner.’ As well as airlines, the UK’s airports are struggling for survival amid plummeting passenger numbers.

The addition of more popular holiday destinations to the quarantine list would leave most of Europe subject to restrictions

Yesterday, Gatwick said it would start charging £5 to drop-off passengers to raise money during the pandemic.

Heathrow – Britain’s busiest airport – is still operating at half capacity, with two out of four terminals closed. BA, the airport’s biggest airline, is only flying 30 per cent of its schedule.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: ‘The Government recognises the impact that coronavirus is having on the economy and workers, and has put together an extensive package of financial support to help the aviation sector.

‘Work is ongoing with clinicians and health experts on the practicalities of using testing to reduce the self-isolation period for international arrivals.’

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