Queues at ports as families attempt to beat France quarantine deadline

Video report by ITV News Correspondent Dan Rivers

Hundreds of thousands of British tourists in France face a race to get home before quarantine restrictions are imposed following a change to restrictions.

People arriving in the UK after 4am on Saturday will be required to spend 14 days in self-isolation, the Transport Minister announced late on Thursday after coronavirus cases in France rose.

Travellers trying to return from France on Friday to avoid the quarantine restrictions face a scramble for tickets costing hundreds of pounds.

A Friday night flight on British Airways from Paris to London Heathrow sold out by 10.30am despite costing £452.

Holidaymakers at Calais have their say on the quarantine rules

Channel Tunnel trains are now also fully booked until Saturday while Eurotunnel Le Shuttle urged people not to arrive at the terminal without a valid ticket.

A Heathrow spokesman accused the government of playing "quarantine roulette“ and said testing could safely reduce the length of quarantine.

  • Video report by ITV News Consumer Editor Chris Choi

How is this affecting holidaymakers?

David Evans and his family are driving back through France to take a ferry home after visiting his wife's family in Slovakia.

He says their travel plans are "screwed" now France has been added to the quarantine list.

"We could try and get an earlier ferry as there is availability at 10pm tonight - but 15 hours of driving is just dangerous and will cause deaths on the roads - plus ferry companies have now jacked up their prices to profiteer on the panic."

David Evans and his family are driving back through France to take a ferry home after visiting his wife's family in Slovakia.

The family plan to stick to their original plan and catch a ferry form France on Saturday - after the new restrictions come into force.

"I’ll have to cancel my meetings next week and see what I can do online. Why they can’t be flexible and allow people to volunteer to be tested if they want to avoid the 14-day thing?

"Or even pay to be tested to avoid it?" Mr Evans said.

He described the policy as "ill thought out".

Healthcare worker Harry Gladwin was due to have his first holiday in months to the Netherlands.

Travel expert Simon Calder offers advice to those wishing to head abroad

He said he had been "really looking forward" to the break after working 50-hour weeks over lockdown.

Mr Gladwin told ITV News as he will not be entitled to sick pay he would not be able to afford to take two-weeks off to quarantine.

He said the government should be clearer on its advice.

"If they're (the government) bringing in this two week quarantine, I'm going to lose out on two weeks work, it's going to be unpaid.

"If they don't think it's safe to travel I don't see why they're not making it impossible to travel.

"They shouldn't be letting people go to different countries if it's not safe."

Queues of Brits were waiting to cross the Channel at Calais.

Many were resigned to cutting their trip short but others felt the decision was "ridiculous".

"It's not the notice that I think is ridiculous it's the fact that they're quarantining against the whole country," one traveller told ITV News.

"We've just come from a place that's got less Covid... the locals say they've never had a case, it's less dangerous than Devon. So why have we been forced to come running back when all the people in Devon are enjoying their holidays."

Passengers at Stansted Airport Credit: PA

Eurotunnel Le Shuttle said in a statement: “Due to the recent Government announcement, our shuttles are now fully booked until tomorrow morning.

“There is no more ticket availability and we are not selling tickets at check-in.

“Please do not arrive at the terminal unless you have a ticket valid for travel today.”

A Heathrow spokesman said: “Testing could provide an opportunity to safely reduce the length of quarantine in certain circumstances, protecting both the health and wealth of the nation as we pave a path towards a new normal.

“As ever, our teams will be on hand to support passengers impacted by the travel restrictions but we urge Government to work with us to trial a solution which could help to provide more certainty.”

With an estimated half a million Britons in France, and many thousands more in Malta, Holland and other destinations now facing quaratine, questions have been asked about how the government plan to enforce a 14-day stay-at-home policy among those returning to the UK.

The Home Office said a total of nine fines have been issued at the border since quarantine restrictions were introduced.

The department counts the number of fixed penalty notices issued by Border Force under the regulations.

The National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC), which holds details of the number of quarantine fines issued by forces in England and Wales, was unable to provide the latest figure.

Previously the body said just one person had been fined by police between June 8, when the rules were introduced, and July 27. Home Secretary Priti Patel previously said there had been a high level of compliance with the measures.

But in a report earlier this month the Commons Home Affairs Committee said it remained "unconvinced" by Home Office claims that an estimated 99.9% of the public subjected to quarantine restrictions were complying with the rules and called for the findings to be "better evidenced" and routinely published.

Dan Rivers explains the latest from France

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said officials would be “absolutely ruthless” in deciding on whether to impose the self-isolation requirement.

The Foreign Office updated its advice to warn against all but essential travel to France because of the coronavirus risk.

Travellers arriving from Monaco, Malta, Turks & Caicos & Aruba must also quarantine for 14 days if they arrive in the UK after 4am on Saturday.

France's secretary of state for European affairs said the UK decision would lead to “reciprocal measures” across the Channel.

  • France added to quarantine list, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announces:

Clement Beaune tweeted: "A British decision which we regret and which will lead to reciprocal measures, all in hoping for a return for normal as soon as possible."

Transport secretary Jean-Baptiste Djebbari added he had spoken to Mr Shapps about the decision.

He tweeted: "I told my counterpart Grant Shapps of our will to harmonise health protocols in order to ensure a high level of protection on both sides of the Channel."

French President Emmanuel Macron. Credit: AP

Why has France been added to the quarantine list?

The news that France is no longer considered a safe travel destination for Brits follows days of warnings about the country's rising coronavirus case rates.

The Joint Biosecurity Centre and Public Health England detected a significant change in Covid-19 risk in all six destinations, according to ministers.

Department for Transport officials said that data from France shows that over the past week there has been a 66% increase in newly reported Covid-19 cases and a 52% increase in weekly incidence rate per 100,000 population.

The latest 14-day cumulative figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control show 32.1 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people in France, compared with 18.5 in the UK.

Boris Johnson during his visit to Northern Ireland on Thursday Credit: Brian Lawless/PA

Before the announcement was made, Mr Johnson said: “We have got to be absolutely ruthless about this, even with our closest and dearest friends and partners.

“I think everybody understands that.”

Mr Johnson said the government could not allow the UK’s population to be “reinfected or the disease to come back in”.

“That is why the quarantine measures are very important and we have to apply them in a very strict way,” he said during a visit to Belfast.

Stricter regulations on wearing face coverings came into force in France on Monday. Credit: AP

With Spain already on the UK's quarantine list, it now holidaymakers returning to the UK from the two of the most popular overseas destinations will now be impacted.

The decision to add the Netherlands was made after a 52% increase in newly reported cases between August 7 and 13 after a consistent series of rises in previous weeks.

Over the past week, there has been a 273% increase in newly reported cases in Turks & Caicos, a 1,106% increase in Aruba and a 105% rise in Malta.