Quarantine: the UK’s no-go policy looks increasingly baffling

Simon Calder
·3-min read
All aboard: the ferry that serves as the airport bus in the Maldives (Simon Calder)
All aboard: the ferry that serves as the airport bus in the Maldives (Simon Calder)

For plucky Liechtenstein, it was just a matter of time. Coronavirus cases in the Alpine principality have been rising steadily since the start of August. Now that the number of new infections is closing in on the rate in the UK, the nation with no airport joins its neighbours, Switzerland and Austria, on the no-go list.

“The current assessment of Covid-19 risks,” booms the Foreign Office, apparently makes Liechtenstein so dangerous for British visitors that their travel insurance is no longer valid.

The number of UK travellers for whom this designation will prove a problem is either zero or very, very close to it. Quite a contrast from teatime last Thursday, when tens of thousands of British visitors were stopped in their tracks from taking half-term trips to Italy.

This week, though, the transport secretary had a treat in store: the Canary Islands have been removed from the no-go list. If only families had a tiny bit more notice. Many schools are about to break up for half-term, and some autumn sunshine could prove just the escape everyone needs.

Unfortunately, the leading holiday company to the Canaries, Jet2, is unable to magic up capacity in time for an instant getaway – so trips to Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura will not begin until next weekend.

The archipelago has been closed for three months, since Spain was suddenly ruled out-of-bounds, as Andrew Flintham, managing director of Tui, observed through gritted teeth.

“We must move away, where possible, from the anxiety our industry faces waiting for the new list of places people can travel to each week,” he said. “This level of uncertainty is damaging for business and all those employed in our industry.”

In Denmark, meanwhile, they are toasting the nation’s early promotion out of trouble after just a few weeks with a chilled Carlsberg. Probably the best quarantine policy in the world? Hardly. Paul Charles, chief executive of The PC Agency travel consultancy and a vigorous campaigner against the government’s frequent flip-flops, said: “There seems to be an increasing irrationality about the decision-making process for the quarantine list which is adding to the travel sector’s difficulties due to lack of certainty.

“But it’s encouraging to see corridors open up to popular winter destinations such as Maldives and Canary Islands, giving UK travellers a few more options.”

If you happen to have a map handy, you may notice that between these sunny archipelagos lies a vast, beautiful and friendly continent. It’s called Africa.

In Covid terms, which appear to be the only danger that matters to the government these days, many of its nations are extremely low-risk. Tourism is even more important for countries such as Egypt, Kenya and South Africa than it is for the Canaries (and plucky Liechtenstein). But the UK operates what amounts to a travel ban to every corner of Africa.

One day we may find out why the British government is giving the continent such a hard time. Until then, every day moves millions of people one step closer to despair.

Read more

Canaries, Maldives, Mykonos and Denmark added to quarantine-free list

Grant Shapps: ‘test and release’ could halve quarantine by 1 December

Tony Blair denies he broke quarantine rules with US visit

All the countries UK holidaymakers can now visit without quarantine