UK airports braced for travel chaos after France quarantine ruling

FILE  - In this Monday, June 8, 2020 file photo, passengers wearing face masks arrive at London's Heathrow Airport. The British government said Friday, July 3, 2020, it is scrapping a 14-day quarantine rule for arrivals from about 60 countries deemed “lower risk” for the coronavirus, including France, Spain, Germany and Italy — but not the United States.  (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File)
The UK government removed France from its travel corridor list, prompting travel chaos. Photo: Matt Dunham/AP

UK airports are braced for travel chaos after the government added France to its quarantine list, even as transport secretary Grant Shapps said Britons should not be “entirely surprised” at the move.

Shapps said on Friday that the 160,000 holidaymakers in France should not simply “turn up” at airports hoping to return to the UK before the new restrictions come into force on Saturday (15 August).

“The advice from all the travel operators is very clear — to contact them in advance. Don't just turn up,” he said in an interview with Sky News.

“I think given what's happened this summer, given what’s already happened in places like Spain and the vast amount of coverage about concerns in France and elsewhere, no-one will be entirely surprised.”

In addition to France, the government removed the Netherlands, Monaco, Malta, the Dutch territory of Aruba, and the British Turks & Caicos Islands from its list of approved coronavirus travel corridors, meaning that travellers from those countries must self-isolate for 14 days if they return to the UK after 4am on Saturday.

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Many direct flights from France to the UK are already sold out, and travellers reported immediate difficulty in arranging a way of returning to the UK.

The price of tickets on Eurostar trains jumped overnight, while all trains after midday on Friday are already fully booked.

Prices from airlines also reflected a surge in demand, as travel operators expect most services to be fully booked within hours.

Shapps said that France was removed from its travel corridor list after the country suffered a 66% increase in the number of positive coronavirus tests in the past week.

Prime minister Boris Johnson had warned hours earlier that the government would be “absolutely ruthless” in deciding whether to impose quarantine restrictions on travellers from certain countries.

Some 2,524 new cases of the virus were reported by French authorities on Wednesday, the highest figure since the country introduced sweeping coronavirus restrictions in March.