Coronavirus UK: Grant Shapps adds Greek islands to quarantine list

Thousands of Britons have seen flights from seven Greek islands added to the government's red list treble in price today, as they face a desperate rush back home to beat the quarantine deadline.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps revealed on Monday that Lesvos, Tinos, Serifos, Mykonos, Crete, Santorini and Zakynthos are being stripped of quarantine exempt status as of 4am on Wednesday amid fears over a spike in coronavirus cases.

Since the announcement, tourists have had to scramble to make alternative plans, with many frantically booking last-minute flights so they don't have to self-isolate for two weeks once back in Britain.

However, holidaymakers are reporting huge price hikes for their journeys back, with some having to pay out three times more than they planned.

Others face a dramatic race against time, with one visitor's flight set to land at 4.20am, while accountant Julie Frew has a tight window of just three hours between her scheduled arrival back in Birmingham and the cut-off point.

The 46-year-old has been in Crete for nearly two weeks with partner David Wort, 48, and is anxious that any slight delay on the journey home could mean both have to quarantine, as well as daughter, Lauren, 23, and her two small children who are due back at nursery over the coming days.

She told MailOnline: 'It's definitely going to be a case of biting our fingernails over the next 24 hours.

Julie Frew and David Wort arrive back in the UK just three hours before the quarantine deadline and fear the consequences of a delay to their flight

Julie Frew and David Wort arrive back in the UK just three hours before the quarantine deadline and fear the consequences of a delay to their flight

'I don't understand it because if anything it seems safer here than in the UK.

'It's been very quiet, there's barely anyone on the beaches, all the staff wear masks and there are hand-sanitisers on every table.

'It's not like it's a party island, everything shuts down by midnight, and I think they've only had one or two cases reported a day for the last few weeks compared to our thousands - we had no concerns coming here.

'The government just don't seem to know what they're doing, they're quoting different numbers and it's like they're playing Russian Roulette.

'Both of us are very angry and frustrated about it because we've followed the rules throughout lockdown and it feels like we might be punished.

'We've been looking forward to this holiday for months and it's been a well-deserved break away from a very hard year.

'Thankfully neither of us are in a position where we'd lose jobs or pay as a result of quarantine but I'm sure plenty of others face that threat.'

In his announcement in the Commons, Mr Shapps said that he was stopping short of following Scotland's example by slapping restrictions on arrivals from Greece as a whole.

The grim news came as the Cabinet minister revealed that the quarantine system for England is being overhauled to take account of the widely different risk profile presented by some islands. 

The Joint Biosecurity Centre will now consider islands separately from their mainland where possible.

'For the first time we have the data and the capacity to add and remove specific islands from quarantine while still providing maximum protection for the public,' he told MPs. 

However, despite the move by the Transport Secretary to add more destinations to the 'red' list, England's approach to imposing quarantine remains less severe than both Scotland and Wales. Scotland has imposed travel quarantine on the whole of Greece while Wales has banned travel to a larger number of Greek islands.   

The Transport Secretary revealed that Lesvos, Tinos, Serifos, Mykonos, Crete (pictured), Santorini and Zakynthos are being added to the 'red' list as of 4am on Wednesday

The Transport Secretary revealed that Lesvos, Tinos, Serifos, Mykonos, Crete (pictured), Santorini and Zakynthos are being added to the 'red' list as of 4am on Wednesday

Greece as a whole is still well below the threshold for the UK considering quarantine measures - but some of the Greek islands have higher case numbers

Greece as a whole is still well below the threshold for the UK considering quarantine measures - but some of the Greek islands have higher case numbers

Matt Hancock says government wants to test arrivals in the UK for Covid 'as soon as it's practical' to halve two-week quarantine 

Matt Hancock today insisted coronavirus testing for arrivals in the UK will be introduced 'as soon as it is practical'.

The Health Secretary said the government recognised how much strain the requirement for 14-day quarantine was putting on the travel industry.

He warned that doing just one test at the airport 'doesn't work' as too many asymptomatic cases would be missed. 

But he confirmed that the government is working on a plan for screening incomers after around eight days, which could potentially halve the quarantine period. 

'It is one of the things that we are looking to being in as soon as it is practical to do so,' Mr Hancock told an LBC radio phone-in. 

Ministers have been rattled by mounting Tory anger over the disastrous quarantine policy, with claims that 110,000 jobs linked to the aviation industry are at stake.

The arrangements have been cast into further doubt as the UK's number of cases are now nearing the threshold at which it imposes isolation rules on other countries. 

The government is considering two options to open up the skies and help rescue the Covid-ravaged economy.

Under the first, passengers would be given an airport test on arrival followed by a second test a few days later. The second option is for a single test after five to eight days of self-isolation.

But aviation chiefs are furious at the slow pace of progress and want a firm commitment to border tests by the end of the week.  

Advertisement

The Foreign Office has updated its guidance to advise against all but essential travel to the seven islands, but not Greece more widely. 

The announcement was broadly welcomed by the holiday industry as a step in the right direction.

Paul Charles, CEO of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: 'It's to be warmly welcomed that the Government is amending its quarantine policy – opening up some islands to British tourists again without them having to quarantine.

'Regional corridors are vital to keep travel and tourism alive and well, and I hope it removes the confusion of different UK governments pursuing different approaches to individual countries.

'It's sad news for the Greek islands who can't yet open up but I hope this policy provides impetus for them to get their cases under control.'

But there were complaints that the government is acting too slowly. 

A spokesman for British Airways' owner IAG said: 'It was evident back in July that islands should be treated separately. The Government is being too slow in making obvious decisions.

'For most families summer is now over and the damage to the industry and the economy is done. On testing, we need to get on with it. We are way behind other countries on what has to be a more nuanced approach.'

Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon criticised the Government's handling of the pandemic, describing its response as 'chaotic'.

He said: 'The Government's response to the Covid-19 crisis has been nothing short of chaotic. At almost every turn, it lacked a clear strategy and this failure has been acutely felt in aviation.

'For months, even when the virus was at its peak, millions of passengers were coming from all over the world without any restrictions placed upon them at all. By the time restrictions were introduced, we were one of only a handful of countries in the world who up to that point had failed to take action in bringing restrictions in place.' 

It came after Matt Hancock insisted coronavirus testing for arrivals in the UK will be introduced 'as soon as it is practical' to ease the quarantine measures.

The Health Secretary said the government recognised how much strain the requirement for 14-day isolation was putting on the travel industry.

He warned that doing just one test at the airport 'doesn't work' as too many asymptomatic cases would be missed. 

But he confirmed that the government is working on a plan for screening incomers after around eight days, which could potentially halve the quarantine period. 

'It is one of the things that we are looking to being in as soon as it is practical to do so,' Mr Hancock told an LBC radio phone-in. 

Ministers have been rattled by mounting Tory anger over the disastrous quarantine policy, with claims that 110,000 jobs linked to the aviation industry are at stake.

The arrangements have been cast into further doubt as the UK's number of cases are now nearing the threshold at which it imposes isolation rules on other countries. 

The government is considering two options to open up the skies and help rescue the Covid-ravaged economy.

Under the first, passengers would be given an airport test on arrival followed by a second test a few days later. The second option is for a single test after five to eight days of self-isolation.

But aviation chiefs are furious at the slow pace of progress and want a firm commitment to border tests by the end of the week.  

Grant Shapps told the Commons that he was stopping short of following Scotland's example by slapping restrictions on arrivals from Greece as a whole

Grant Shapps told the Commons that he was stopping short of following Scotland's example by slapping restrictions on arrivals from Greece as a whole

During an LBC radio phone-in today, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government recognised how much strain 14-day quarantine was putting on the travel industry

During an LBC radio phone-in today, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government recognised how much strain 14-day quarantine was putting on the travel industry

Airport chief executives claimed testing, alongside other measures, could save 110,000 jobs industry-wide. Pictured: Arrivals at Heathrow

Airport chief executives claimed testing, alongside other measures, could save 110,000 jobs industry-wide. Pictured: Arrivals at Heathrow

The quarantine arrangements have been cast into further doubt as the UK's number of cases are now nearing the threshold at which it imposes isolation rules on other countries

The quarantine arrangements have been cast into further doubt as the UK's number of cases are now nearing the threshold at which it imposes isolation rules on other countries

Airport bosses from Britain’s largest transport hubs have warned Boris Johnson that he risks ‘irreparable damage’ to the economy if quarantining upon arrival is not scrapped. Pictured: Passenger wearing face covering has temperature checked

Airport bosses from Britain's largest transport hubs have warned Boris Johnson that he risks 'irreparable damage' to the economy if quarantining upon arrival is not scrapped. Pictured: Passenger wearing face covering has temperature checked

Bahrain dropped second Covid test after just 0.2% were positive 

Bahrain dropped quarantine for arrivals who were tested at airports after discovering only a tiny proportion went on to develop coronavirus.

The Gulf state originally introduced a two-test system, with passengers screened on landing and then again after 10 days of self-isolation.

The system is similar to that now being considered by ministers in the UK.

However, Bahrain abandoned the quarantine requirement after concluding that the risk of people developing the disease later was miniscule.

Just 0.2 per cent - one in 500 people - who were negative on arrival tested positive 10 days later, according to the authorities. The second test is still carried out, but there is no need to isolate until that result.

Advertisement

Leaders from the likes of Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham and Luton have set the Prime Minister a seven-day deadline to replace mandatory self-isolation with Covid-19 testing at airports.

In the letter seen by the Daily Telegraph - also addressed to Chancellor Rishi Sunak - 20 airport chief executives claimed testing, alongside other measures, could save 110,000 jobs industry-wide.

Having already lost over £4billion due to reduced traffic during the pandemic, they wrote: 'We cannot currently envisage an end to this struggle, and without robust Government support there is real possibility of irreparable damage being done to our once world-beating aviation sector.'

sonos sonos One (Gen 2) - Voice Controlled Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa Built-in - Black read more

Led by Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith, conservative chair of the Airport Operators' Association, the signatories stressed that testing, along with regional travel corridors, were critical to opening up travel.

It is also believed scores of Tory MPs will today urge the government to back testing in airports to remove a 'barrier to travel'. 

TUI managing director Andrew Flintham also criticised the lack of testing at

read more from dailymail.....

PREV Coronavirus US: New York positivity rate below 1% after 31 days
NEXT Four Navy aircrew parachute to safety moments before E-2C Hawkeye plane crashes ...