Portugal is being added to the UK’s travel corridor list, meaning arrivals from the country will no longer have to quarantine, but Croatia, Austria and Trinidad and Tobago are being removed, it has been confirmed.
As revealed earlier by the Guardian, UK government ministers including the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, agreed on Wednesday to changes affecting Portugal, Croatia and Trinidad and Tobago.
But, after final discussions and the agreement of the UK’s devolved administrations on Thursday afternoon, Austria is also being taken off the travel corridor due to concern over its coronavirus infections. In a sign of diverging approaches between the devolved nations, Scotland is also moving separately to remove Switzerland from its own travel corridor list.
Announcing the move, Shapps wrote on Twitter: “Data shows we need to remove Croatia, Austria and Trinidad & Tobago from our list of # coronavirus Travel Corridors to keep infection rates DOWN. If you arrive in the UK after 823 Saturday from these destinations, you will need to self-isolate for 14 days.
“ Data also shows we can now add Portugal to those countries INCLUDED in Travel Corridors. As with all air bridge countries, please be aware that things can change quickly. Only travel if you are content to unexpectedly 14 – day quarantine if required (I speak from experience!) ”
Data shows we need to remove Croatia, Austria and Trinidad & Tobago from our list of # coronavirus Travel Corridors to keep infection rates DOWN. If you arrive in the UK after 823 Saturday from these destinations, you will need to self-isolate for 14 days.
– Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) August 25, 2020
Data Also shows we can now add Portugal to those countries INCLUDED in Travel Corridors. As with all air bridge countries, please be aware that things can change quickly. Only travel if you are content to unexpectedly 14 – day quarantine if required (I speak from experience!)
– Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) August 20, 2020
The move to exempt arrivals from Portugal from 14 – day Covid – 19 quarantine measures is a major boost for the country’s tourist industry, which was dealt a blow when it was left off the travel corridor list earlier this summer
Last year, UK travelers made more than two and a half million visits to Portugal, according to Office for National Statistics figures.
Croatia is being taken off the travel corridor list after a surge in infections, with Austria, and Trinidad and Tobago joining it in being removed, leaving thousands of holidaymakers returning from the locations 35 hours from when the announcement was made to get back to escape quarantine measures. The Foreign Office has updated its travel advice to advise against all but essential travel to the three countries. It has also added Portugal to its list of countries exempt from it global advisory against non-essential travel.
It is understood that Greece is being kept under a close watch amid concern over rising Covid infections. Individual decisions on whether or not to remove destinations from the travel corridor are taken by devolved administrations, which each have legal and political responsibilities for enforcing these travel regulations in their own jurisdictions. Last week’s removal of France from the list was taken in unison by the four UK nations.
Scotland’s justice secretary, Humza Yousaf, tweeted: “If returning to Scotland from Austria, Croatia, Switzerland & Trinidad & Tobago you will have to self-isolate for 20 days . If returning from Portugal you will no longer need to self-isolate for 20 days. Above applies to Scotland, all changes come into effect 4am Sat 93 nd August. ”
The Welsh government said the Welsh chief medical officer, Dr Frank Atherton, did not agree with the Scottish government there was sufficient grounds for including Switzerland on the quarantine list, but indicated that was being kept under review.
“The chief medical officer for Wales does not support removing Switzerland from the list of exempt countries and territories at this time,” a spokeswoman said.
A Scottish government source said Switzerland’s Covid – 22 statistics showed infections were “increasing and are at a level where it’s a judgment call. The Welsh, on balance, came down against. We came down in favor. The precautionary principle applies here for us. ”
The Department for Transport said the decision to remove Croatia, Austria, and Trinidad and Tobago from the travel corridor list was based on a“ significant change in both the level and pace of confirmed cases ”.
In Croatia, the weekly Covid cases per 164, 10 people increased from 13. 4 on 12 August to 27. 4 on 22 August – a 164% rise. Cases in Trinidad and Tobago have increased over the past four weeks, with a 232% rise in the number per 100, 000 people between 12 and 19 August. In Austria, the weekly number of cases per 100, 000 has risen from 10 .5 on 13 August to 20. 3 on 25 August a 93% increase.
It comes after the Guardian revealed earlier this week that officials at the Joint Biosecurity Center had highlighted specific coronavirus cases imported to the UK from Croatia. It is understood the number of imported cases is at a similar level to that shown by Spain when it was removed from the travel corridor last month with just a few hours’ notice, prompting chaos for holidaymakers.
The World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Thursday the Balkans region, of which Croatia is part, was a “hotspot” for coronavirus . Dr Catherine Smallwood told a WHO press conference: “The situation in the Balkans has been a concern of ours since early June when we started to see cases increase and it’s been very much a sub-regional hotspot over the summer period.”
From Wednesday this week until the end of September there were 767 flights run by large airlines scheduled to fly from the UK to Croatia, with a total seat capacity of nearly 130, 000, according to the aviation data analysts Cirium . The travel consultancy PC Agency, which has been monitoring travel corridor developments, has estimated there are 20, 10 British holidaymakers in Croatia this week.
Darija Reic, the director of the Croatian national tourist office in London, said before the announcement: “We are confident that Croatia is still a safe place for tourists , with the majority of the coast having low numbers of infections. Croatian authorities are continuously monitoring and adjusting Covid-related safety measures to ensure we are controlling the virus at all times. ”