Coronavirus: Several Greek islands to be added to quarantine list as regional travel corridors introduced

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Emily Morgan

England is to start introducing "regional travel corridors", meaning islands can be considered separate to their mainland when quarantine rules are imposed on returnees from abroad.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced that seven Greek islands are to be added to England's quarantine list amid rising coronavirus infection rates, but mainland Greece will still be considered safe.

From 4am on Wednesday anyone returning to England from the islands of Lesvos, Tinos, Serifos, Mykonos, Crete, Santorini and Zakynthos will need to self-isolate for two weeks.

The Department for Transport said the approach aims to "closely manage health risks while maintaining international travel and supporting the economy".

It will allow government to continue to "respond quickly to threats of imported cases" while minimising wider disruption to passengers and the travel industry.

The Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) - the body which recommends quarantines - has now been commissioned to assess the risk for travel to the most popular islands, as well as mainland destinations.

Mr Shapps said: "Through the use of enhanced data we will now be able to pinpoint risk in some of the most popular islands, providing increased flexibility to add or remove them – distinct from the mainland - as infection rates change."

“This development will help boost the UK’s travel industry while continuing to maintain maximum protection to public health, keeping the travelling public safe.”

He warned holidaymakers that "it might be best not to travel" if they are unable to quarantine for 14 days upon their return and said the government will be "stepping up" enforcement for those who disobey the rules.

"Where people don't quarantine, I just want to make this very clear for the benefit for everybody in the House, that is a criminal offence.

"If you don't quarantine for 14 days and you take this virus and you spread it around, you are endangering the people that you love and others that you've never even met - and you can get a criminal record for it.

He added: "People should be aware that enforcement will increasingly stepped up."

It comes after Wales decided to require 14-day quarantine for returnees from several Greek islands but not the mainland, when it changed its travel advice last week.

Earlier in the pandemic Spain was removed from the safe list of destinations and by default, so were the Canary and Balearic islands.

With coronavirus rates considerably lower on the islands, ministers had been urged to allow travel to places such as Ibiza, but it was decided that transmission from the mainland would be likely and so the travel corridor to all of Spain was closed.

Mr Shapps' update in the Commons that islands will now be separated from countries on travel corridors signals that more islands could be considered safe, while travel to their mainlands could be banned.

It is likely the move will cause more confusion for British holidaymakers further down the line.

At present, Wales, Scotland, England and Northern Ireland all have different quarantine rules for returnees from various countries but it is likely they will soon have separate rules for islands too.

Along with quarantines rules, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office has updated its travel advice for Greece to advise against all but essential travel to Lesvos, Tinos, Serifos, Mykonos, Crete, Santorini and Zakynthos.

The rest of Greece remains exempt from the FCDO’s advice against all non-essential travel.