French quarantine weighed up by ministers after infection rate overtakes Portugal

Gordon Rayner
·3-min read
A woman walks, wearing a face mask to protect against coronavirus, near the beach, in Saint Jean de Luz, southwestern France - AP
A woman walks, wearing a face mask to protect against coronavirus, near the beach, in Saint Jean de Luz, southwestern France - AP

A rise in coronavirus infections in France is being closely monitored by ministers after Norway re-imposed quarantine on it.

France’s weekly rate has overtaken that of Portugal, which has reduced its coronavirus cases to the extent that ministers are considering lifting the travel ban on it next week and allowing flights to the country and its islands of the Azores and Madeira.

The moves came as it was announced Belgium, Andorra and the Bahamas will this weekend be removed from the Government’s “green” list which exempts arrivals to the UK from self-isolating for 14 days.

Government sources stressed there was no imminent decision on France as it recorded its highest daily number of new Covid-19 cases in two months, with 1,695 positive tests, slightly fewer than the 1,772 seen in Spain.

Within hours, Norway announced it was reimposing a 10-day quarantine for arrivals from France as well as Monaco, Switzerland, the Czech Republic and some Swedish regions.

Rising coronavirus across Europe have prompted concerns over a second wave of the pandemic, with authorities rushing to implement new containment measures.

Jean Castex, the French prime minister, warned that the country may impose a new lockdown if people failed to observe social distancing rules.

Face masks are already compulsory in indoor public spaces, and many French towns and cities have now also made them mandatory in crowded outdoor areas.

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It is thought about 450,000 Britons are holidaying in France, largely in the south and the Loire Valley, including many families catching a break before returning for their children’s A-level and GCSE results.

“The sheer scale of British people on holiday in France at the moment is a logistical nightmare,” said Paul Charles, chief executive of the travel consultancy The PC Agency.

“Even if the Government did add France, I would expect them to give more notice than the five hours for Spain and give at least 24 hours advance warning. France is very different to Spain with so many links to the UK and there are other countries with much more worrying rates.”

Belgium, Andorra and Bahamas, which are due to be removed from the UK “green” list in the next 24-48 hours, recorded rises to 21.6 cases per 100,000 of the population, 41.4 per 100,000 and 68.2 per 100,000.

Quarantine was, however, lifted for two long-haul destinations Malaysia and Brunei, allowing them onto the UK “green” list.

Portugal, which reported only 203 cases on Thursday, has seen its coronavirus rate fall from 25.8 at the start of July to 12.5 per 100,000 in the past week.

Sources indicated Portugal could be added to the “green” list in the next scheduled review at the end of next week if its cases continued on the same trajectory.

In contrast to the rapid spread of the virus in February and March, Europe is seeing a more gradual rise in infections.

In Germany, the number of daily new cases passed 1,000 for the first time in three months. Germany also ordered compulsory testing for all international travellers arriving from countries deemed high risk, with fines of up to €25,000 (£22,500) for those refusing.

Germany currently has only 272 coronavirus patients in intensive care, and the country's reproduction number, or 'R' rate, fell back under one to 0.9 on Thursday.

In France, only 137 of the new cases are being treated in hospital, and the overall number of hospitalised coronavirus patient continues to fall.

There is more urgent alarm over the current situation in Spain. The region of Aragon, not on the mainstream tourist trail, now has the highest rate of cases in Europe, with 567 per 100,000 of population.

Sixty per cent of new cases recorded in Spain on Wednesday were in Aragon and Madrid, where 25 elderly people who tested negative for the virus had to be evacuated from a care home after 47 others tested positive.