Britons travelling to the European Union could soon face quarantine on arrival across the board as countries consider whether to adopt a standardised threshold for imposing self-isolation rules.
The European Commission is pushing member states to adopt its recently published ‘traffic light’ quarantine system so that the entire bloc uses the same criteria for restricting travel.
The EU’s system would see quarantine measures applied to all arrivals from countries which have more than 50 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people over the previous two weeks and a positive test rate above three per cent.
A recent surge in cases means the UK currently has an infection rate of 51.1 per 100,000 and a positive test rate of six per cent – both above the EU’s threshold.
Ireland is expected to announce its new quarantine rules today with reports suggesting Dublin will adopt the European Commission’s approach.
The European Commission wants European countries to adopt a standardised system for imposing quarantine on travellers. The threshold would be set at more than 50 cases per 100,000 people. A coronavirus test centre is pictured at Brussels Airport yesterday
The current rate of coronavirus infection in European counties
The EU is proposing to introduce a standardised system for quarantine.
It would see arrivals from countries with a rate of more than 50 cases per 100,000 told to self-isolate.
These are the current infection levels per 100,000 in European countries.
The Telegraph said France, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands are all in favour of a standardised system.
However, it is thought they would want to retain the ability to act unilaterally on quarantine so they could alter restrictions when they see fit.
The expected move by Ireland comes as Finland moves to roll out updated quarantine measures from this weekend.
Its system will see arrivals from countries with 25 cases per 100,000 having to quarantine and get tested.
The European Commission published its ‘traffic light’ plans at the start of September in a bid to harmonise rules across Europe.
Its system would see countries with an infection rate above 50 per 100,000 added to a ‘red list’ while countries with a rate between 25 and 50 would be on the ‘amber list’.
Countries with an infection rate of lower than 25 per 100,000 would be added to the ‘green list’.
People travelling from countries on the ‘red list’ would be told to either quarantine or get tested.
Under the European Commission’s proposals, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control would publish a map every week with the latest colour codes applied to each country.
The bloc said it wanted to introduce a ‘well-coordinated, predictable and transparent approach to travel restrictions’ which would replace the current ‘kaleidoscope of individual measures’.
Paul Charles, chief executive of the travel consultancy The PC Agency, said the idea of a consensus being struck on quarantine is ‘good news’ but ‘bad news for travellers leaving the UK because our numbers are getting worse’.
Denmark is at risk of being added to England’s quarantine list this week following a rise in coronavirus infections.
The UK Government currently uses a threshold of 20 cases per 100,000 when it makes decisions on whether to add or remove countries from its quarantine list.
Downing Street remains under intense pressure to change the UK’s travel quarantine rules amid growing fears for the future of the aviation and travel industries.
Ministers have faced calls for months to replace the current 14 day self-isolation restrictions for people returning to the UK from high risk countries with a more nuanced system of airport testing.
Advocates believe testing on arrival could open the door to significantly reducing the two week quarantine period to potentially less than seven days.
A double testing approach would see travellers tested on arrival and then told to self-isolate for something like five days when they would then be tested for a second time.
Two negative tests would be enough to allow people to end their period in quarantine and return to normal life.
However, ministers have been reluctant to approve airport testing because of concerns that the approach could fail to identify some people who have the virus.
This is because of the amount of time it can take for the virus to be detectable after the moment of infection.
But many MPs believe the current blanket approach to travel quarantine cannot continue for much longer because of the damage it is doing to the aviation sector.
Former prime minister Theresa May last week became the most senior figure to call for the Government to back airport testing as she said it ‘has to be the way forward’ so that quarantine can be eased.
She said ‘at the moment airports aren’t even permitted to trial tests on passengers’ and demanded that change as soon as possible, arguing that ‘far from leading the world, the UK is lagging behind’.
Mrs May also suggested the Government is split on the issue. She said the Department for Transport ‘gets this’ but Number 10, the Treasury and other departments do not.
She said her message to the Government was ‘if you want to get the economy moving, get planes flying again’.
Ministers have announced changes to the UK’s ‘red list’ on Thursday evenings in recent weeks.
Speculation is growing that Denmark, Italy and mainland Greece could soon be added to England’s quarantine list after increases in infection rates.
Figures showed Denmark’s cumulative number of cases over seven days was at 28.7 infections per 100,000 people at the start of this week, far above the UK threshold.
Italy logged 16.5 cases per 100,000 residents while Greece recorded 15.4 per 100,000.
Insiders said ministers could hold off on imposing blanket restrictions on Italy but may insist on quarantining arrivals from Sicily, which has seen a spike in infections.