Denmark is set to join Spain, France and Portugal on the UK government’s “no-go” list, after a surge in new infection rates.
As holidaymakers and the travel industry wait nervously for the now-traditional Thursday afternoon announcement of nations to lose their quarantine exemption, Danish figures show one-third more new coronavirus cases today compared with the same day a week ago.
The status of each country is decided by the Department for Transport (DfT), and endorsed by the Foreign Office – which applies a “double lock” in the form of a warning against non-essential travel after the DfT has added a country or region to its quarantine list.
Following complaints from the travel industry about the lack of differentiation between parts of the same country, earlier this month the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said: “For the first time, we have the data and capacity to add or remove specific islands from quarantine, whilst providing maximum protection to UK public health.”
The travel consultancy The PC Agency, has analysed Wednesday’s data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and rates Denmark at 30.5 new cases per 100,000 people. The UK is currently at 32.5, but the threshold for losing quarantine exemption is 20.
Figures for Greece have been increasing slowly, and the national score stands at 17.7.
A requirements for holidaymakers to spend two weeks in self-isolation already applies for arrivals to England and Northern Ireland from seven Greek islands – of which some, including Santorini, Mykonos, Lesbos and Zante, have much higher rates than the average for Greece.
Wales applies quarantine for visitors to nine islands, while the whole of Greece is off-limits for Scottish travellers.
The hope among airlines, travel firms and Greek tourism officials is that low infection rates away from the named islands will mean there is no extension of quarantine.
Last week, Portugal was returned to the no-go list after just three weeks. Hungary also lost its quarantine exemption.
The only three major beach destinations with no self-isolation requirements for returning UK visitors are Italy, Cyprus and Turkey.
Cyprus, which demands proof of a negative Covid-19 test from arriving British holidaymakers, has only 3.3 new cases per 100,000 people.
Italy has seen steady increases in new cases, and is currently on 16.3. Turkey is at 13.8 – though the reliability of its figures and the extent of testing has been questioned.
Neighbouring Bulgaria, currently at 12.9, has been well below the UK government’s threshold for weeks, but has not yet been granted quarantine exemption.
Poland, which is at 9.5, is likely to present a tempting autumn alternative for city breaks since Amsterdam, Barcelona and Paris, are all quarantine destinations.
Paul Charles, chief executive of The PC Agency, said: “Denmark has seen a significant enough jump in cases that it is very likely to be added to the quarantine list this week.
“Luckily for many tourists, mainland Greece, Italy and Turkey have kept an impressive lid on their infection numbers, so they are avoiding going anywhere near the quarantine ‘red zone’ for now.
“What’s frustrating for many consumers, and the travel sector, is why there aren’t more countries being removed from quarantine, especially long-haul destinations such as Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia and Rwanda?
“Removing these would be a major boost to confidence among travellers and enable airlines to increase their frequency to these destinations.
“It is also now questionable why all of Africa is off limits unless you wish to quarantine on your return.”
A government spokesperson said: “We are taking clear and decisive action to slow the spread of the virus and save lives. We keep the data for all countries and territories under constant review.”