Published on Monday, September 7, 2020

Seven Greek islands ruled out of bounds amid new quarantine approach

The government has advised against all but essential travel to seven Greek islands after saying it will, where possible, now take a regional approach to quarantine and ditch its sweeping country-wide policy.

Lesvos, Tinos, Serifos, Mykonos, Crete, Santorini and Zakynthos have been ruled out of bounds following a spike in Covid cases.

It marks the start of new approach where travel corridors between the UK and islands will now be possible - but only where there are direct flights.

Shapps told Parliament today it did not previously have the data to assess regional levels of Covid infections.

He said the Joint Biosecurity Centre resources have 'become stronger' with a regional system for travel corridors now possible 

But he stressed it would only apply for islands, where there are 'natural borders', and not to regions within the mainland of a country.

"In many cases the travel data is still too patchy and there is nothing to prevent people moving around," Shapps said.

"So the Joint Biosecurity Centre and the government at present are unable to introduce regional corridors within states However, where natural borders exist we can.

"So I can today announce a new island policy. We have the data and capacity from today to add and remove islands from the quarantine policy, with four guiding principles - it can only apply to islands with clear boundaries, the data must be robust, the island must have direct flights or be accessible through quarantine-exempt territory, and the FCO advice should align as far as possible."

Travellers returning from the seven Greek islands after 4am on Wednesday will need to quarantine for 14 days on their return.

"The first changes under the new process were made today, with seven Greek islands to be removed from exemption list - Lesvos, Tinos, Serifos, Mykonos, Crete, Santorini and Zakynthos," he said.

"People arriving in England from those islands from Wednesday 9 September 04.00am will need to self-isolate for two weeks.

"Data from the Joint Biosecurity Centre and Public Health England has indicated a significant risk to UK public health from those islands, leading to Ministers removing them from the current list of travel corridors.

At the same time, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) has updated its travel advice to 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 international travel."

ABTA welcomed the policy change.

"Today's announcement regarding travel from specific islands to England is welcome and the industry hopes that this will in turn lead to a more targeted approach such as that adopted in Germany and the Netherlands, which would also reflect the UK's domestic strategy of localised lockdowns," a spokesperson said. "It also however highlights the requirement for a more coordinated approach from the home nations to prevent avoidable confusion.

"The travel industry has long been a powerhouse of economic growth and employment within the economy, yet it has been restricted by Government measures which have slowed any recovery.

"With the right policy and regulatory support, such as a testing regime that enables travel to resume to the UK's major global trading partners, and tailored financial support to get businesses through the crisis, the Government can protect many more jobs that are otherwise at risk."

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