‘Nobody knows!’ Travel expert blasts FCO over confusing Belgium quarantine rules

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Simon Calder claimed new restrictions on people travelling back to the UK from Belgium are still unclear, warning it is a very “worrying” time for those planning holidays in France, the Netherlands and Austria. The travel expert noted that it is not known whether the two weeks coronavirus quarantine rule will also apply to those who will be just driving through Belgium as they return from other countries nearby. 

He said: “It’s a really worrying time. Of course, many people are already committed to go to France and they’re worrying about what their rights are.

“And there’s even the problem of people who are in the Netherlands, or in Germany or Austria, planning to drive back through Belgium.

“And it’s still not clear whether if you drive through, don’t stop for petrol or anything else and just to get through to France and Calais just to come back, whether or not you’re exempt from quarantine.

“I’ve been trying to find out since late last night.

“Nobody knows, it just sums up the uncertainty that surrounds pretty much everything in International travel right now.”

The new quarantine measures were announced on Thursday evening for travellers arriving into the UK from Belgium, Andorra and The Bahamas – with Britons advised against all but essential travel to the three countries.

The restrictions – which mean those arriving will have to self-isolate for 14 days – came into force at midnight in Wales, with the same rules applying in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland from 4am on Saturday.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said rising COVID-19 infection levels in the three countries mean they have been removed from the so-called travel corridors, which meant arrivals were exempt from self-isolating.

Northern Ireland later confirmed the measures would also apply there from the same time on Saturday, while in Wales the restrictions come into force from midnight tonight.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has also updated its travel advice to warn against all but essential trips to Andorra, Belgium and The Bahamas.

Brunei and Malaysia have been added to the Government’s travel corridor list, following a decrease in confirmed cases of coronavirus, meaning arrivals from these countries no longer need to quarantine.

Figures released on Thursday show Belgium has suffered a consistent increase in cases in recent weeks, rising to 27.8 new cases per 100,000 people.

This towers over the UK’s latest rate of 8.4 per 100,000, and is higher than Spain’s 27.4 level around the time when the UK introduced travel restrictions there.

Belgium’s prime minister, Sophie Wilmes, was last week forced to put a halt to the nation’s COVID-19 exit plan by introducing drastic new social distancing measures in the hope of avoiding a new national lockdown.

Contacts outside every household were limited to the same five people for a month, in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.

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The Times reported France could be next to face restrictions due to rising infections in the country.

The French health authority – Sante Publique France – reported cases of COVID-19 are up by a third (33 percent) in the week to August 6, and infection rates are increasing in all age groups, particularly 20 to 30-year-olds.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has told holidaymakers “there is always the risk of disruption” during the pandemic when asked whether France may be the next nation to be added to the quarantine list.

He told Sky News: “It’s a tricky situation. What I can say to people is we’re in the midst of a global pandemic and that means there is always the risk of disruption to travel plans and people need to bear that in mind.

“It’s the right thing for us to do to keep everything under review on a constant basis talking with our scientists, our medical advisers, and if we need to take action as you’ve seen overnight we will of course not hesitate to do that, and we’re doing that to protect people’s health.”

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