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August 14, 2020, 03.50 PM

LONDON, – A UK quarantine has been extended to British holidaymakers coming home from France and the Netherlands amid fresh coronavirus outbreaks in the two EU countries.

UK citizens are scrambling to return home before the mandatory 14-day quarantine rule comes into effect on Saturday at 4am (3am GMT).

The UK quarantine decision has prompted Paris to quickly announce a “reciprocal measure”. 

A mass exodus is expected to occur as an estimated 160,000 British holidaymakers are currently in France where coronavirus outbreaks have steadily risen there.

Read also: UK Quarantine Imposed on Spain – Germany and France Could Be Next

"Data shows we need to remove France, the Netherlands, Monaco, Malta, Turks & Caicos & Aruba from our list of coronavirus Travel Corridors to keep infection rates DOWN," Transport Minister Grant Shapps wrote on Twitter.

"If you arrive in the UK after 4am Saturday from these destinations, you will need to self-isolate for 14 days."

French junior minister for European affairs Clement Beaune said it was "a British decision we regret and which will lead to a reciprocal measure".

France "hoped for a return to normal as soon as possible", Beaune said on Twitter.

On Thursday France recorded 2,669 new coronavirus infections, its highest daily number since May.

Read also: Paris Marathon Canceled as France Mitigates Resurgence of Covid-19 Cases

Britain had initially imposed a blanket quarantine on all visitors arriving in the country, but later carved out "travel corridors" which exempted travellers arriving from certain countries from having to self-isolate.

But it reintroduced the quarantine for travelers arriving from Spain in late July, catching airlines by surprise — as well as thousands of Britons leaving for their holidays.

Britain then reimposed quarantine for travellers from Andorra, Belgium, and the Bahamas last week.

Scientists at Britain's Joint Biosecurity Centre advised the latest measures after France's cases per 100,000 population rose above 20.

"France is heading in the wrong direction...we have to act," Shapps told the BBC on Friday.

"The last thing we want to do is have people returning and bringing the infection with them," he said, adding that there were around 160,000 Brits due to return from France in the near future.

With more than 41,000 deaths caused by the Covid-19 disease, Britain is the worst-hit country in Europe and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been criticized over his handling of the crisis.

His government also announced on Thursday that casinos and bowling alleys will be allowed to reopen in England after being shut during the lockdown, but that those not wearing masks face harsher fines.

Complacency warning

Skating rinks will also be allowed to reopen, and pilot schemes of larger crowds at sporting events will be introduced following a two-week delay to the initial plans caused by a spike in cases.

"A number of remaining aspects of England's culture, sport, leisure and business sectors will be permitted to reopen from this weekend," said a statement from Johnson's Downing Street office.

"Two weeks ago the Office for National Statistics had expressed concerns about a slight increase in the number of people in England testing positive. The situation now appears to have levelled off," it added.

Indoor theatres, music and performance venues will be able to reopen with socially distanced audiences.

Read also: Authorities Rebuff Allegation Jakarta is a Black Zone for Covid-19 Transmission

The piloting of crowd-attended sporting events will commence with the final of the World Snooker Championship at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre on August 15 and 16.

We are able to announce some further changes which will allow more people to return to work and the public to get back to more of the things they have missed," Johnson said.

"However, as I have always said, we will not hesitate to put on the brakes if required," he warned.

Along with the easing of lockdown measures, the government also announced that the fine for those who "repeatedly flout face covering rules" will be doubled to a maximum of £3,200 ($4,200).

Read also: Indian Court Fines 431 Indonesians Linked to High Risk Islamic Rally

New fines will also be introduced for "people hosting raves or other unlawful gatherings of more than 30 people".

"Most people in this country are following the rules and doing their bit to control the virus, but we must remain focused and we cannot be complacent," Johnson said.

The loosening of lockdown rules will not apply to local hotspots that have seen more stringent measures applied to prevent community spread.

Although the Office for National Statistics said the "situation had leveled off", more than 1,000 people a day are still testing positive for the virus. 

(Writers & Editors: JWP/BMM, Agence France-Presse) 


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