Travellers in Czech Republic and Switzerland rush to beat UK quarantine measures

Credit: PA

Travellers are quickly making plans to return to the UK from the Czech Republic, Jamaica and Switzerland after the countries became the latest to be removed from the government’s quarantine exemption list.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced on Thursday evening that those arriving in England from those countries after 4am on Saturday will need to self-isolate in quarantine for 14 days.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said the same measure is being put in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland too. Scotland took Switzerland off its list last week.

Those wishing to return from abroad are having to pay a hefty figure to curtail their trip.

Swiss International Air Lines is selling seats on a flight from Geneva to Heathrow departing on Friday afternoon for £321, while flights on Saturday – after the new quarantine rules come into force – are available for just £99.

A flight from Zurich on Friday is available for £244.

British Airways put on extra services from the Czech Republic and Switzerland to Heathrow following the quarantine announcement, costing £268 from Prague, £308 from Zurich and £353 from Geneva.

UK airports are expected to be busy after quarantine restrictions are lifted for a number of countries. Credit: Steve Parsons/PA

Reductions in coronavirus cases mean Cuba has been added to the destinations from which people can arrive in England or Wales without entering quarantine, while Wales has also removed the quarantine requirement for arrivals from Singapore.

It comes as new enforcement powers entered into force from midnight meaning that anyone facilitating an unlicensed music event or “any other unlawful gathering of 30 people or more” could face a hefty penalty.

The Home Office has also said fines for not wearing face coverings where it is mandated – such as on public transport and in supermarkets – will also double for repeat offenders starting today.

All passengers must wear face coverings on public transport in Wales Credit: PA

People not wearing masks and participants in unlawful gatherings can be fined starting at £100, doubling for each repeat offence up to a maximum of £3,200.

In Wales, indoor visits to both adult and children’s care homes have been given the green light from today. Visits will be subject to strict controls, however, to help prevent transmission of coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the government is launching a major media campaign next week hoping to encourage workers to return to the office.

The adverts will promote the government’s aim to reduce the number of employees working from home, amid fears that town and city centres are becoming ghost areas as workers stay away.

Working from home has become the new normal during the pandemic. Credit: PA

Labour has criticised the plans as being "unconscionable".

The party’s shadow business minister Lucy Powell said: "It beggars belief that the government are threatening people like this during a pandemic. Forcing people to choose between their health and their job is unconscionable.

"Number 10 should condemn this briefing and categorically rule out any such campaign."

However, Tory MPs have said that workers need to get back to the office.

Speaking to The Times, Conservative MP Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, warned of "devastating consequences" if workers stayed at home.

He said: "What is essential is that the government gives a clear and consistent message that it is perfectly safe for people to return to town."

"They should not be worried about infections as a result of travelling on trains and buses. We can all see the devastating consequences for many businesses when a huge proportion of the customers on whom they depend simply aren’t coming into our towns and cities".

Coronavirus alert messages on a sign in the centre of Leicester Credit: Joe Giddens/PA

Meanwhile, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, former Tory party leader, told the newspaper: “The government must have a clear and simple message that civil servants should show the way and get back to work.

"They’ve got to stop mixing that message. The reality is that small businesses that provide the vast majority of jobs in the UK rely on people in city centres being back in their offices.

"If they do not go back many of those businesses will collapse, which will lead to higher unemployment and in turn impact on people’s mental and physical health."