Luxembourg added to list of countries requiring 14-day quarantine

By Simon Murphy and Peter Walker

Downing Street has restored Luxembourg to the list of countries requiring travellers to quarantine for 14 days when they arrive in the UK because of a surge in coronavirus cases in the country, six days after the same demand was re-imposed on arrivals from Spain.

Amid expectations that other countries will be added to the list, Downing Street confirmed on Thursday evening that people returning to England from Luxembourg would be required to quarantine from Friday 31 July.

It comes three weeks after self-isolation restrictions were removed from Spain, Luxembourg and several other destinations.

The Department for Transport said: “There has been a consistent increase in Covid-19 cases per 100,000 of the population in Luxembourg since the end of June, with over a tenfold increase in total cases over this time period.

“As a result, ministers took the decision to remove Luxembourg from the travel corridor list of countries from which people arriving in the UK do not have to self-isolate.”

The Scottish government, which has devolved powers on the issue, announced on Thursday that passengers to Scotland from Luxembourg would have to quarantine for 14 days. The decision was made after an “increase in coronavirus cases” in the country. The measure will come into force at midnight.

The uncertainty is causing renewed chaos to the aviation and overseas tourism industries, which have called for restrictions to be regional – for example, to allow quarantine-free travel to Spain’s Balearic and Canary islands, which have notably lower coronavirus rates than parts of the mainland.

Earlier on Thursday, Labour’s shadow tourism minister said Downing Street should consider implementing regional travel corridors to avoid more blanket Covid-19 quarantine restrictions. Alex Sobel told the Guardian that he was sympathetic to the idea, which would mean that passengers arriving home from areas of at-risk countries with lower rates of infection would avoid having to isolate for 14 days.

The shadow minister also said the government should look at proposals to introduce testing at airports to cut down quarantine times, but stressed that any moves must be underpinned by an effective track-and-trace system.

It comes after a coalition of 47 airlines, airports and tourism leaders wrote to Boris Johnson on Wednesday calling for a “more nuanced approach” to quarantine measures. They urged him to introduce regional travel corridors, as well as improve testing.

The health secretary, Matt Hancock, warned on Thursday that new countries may be added to the quarantine list for returning holidaymakers within days, insisting that there were no regrets about the snap decision on Spain. Downing Street implemented quarantine measures on holidaymakers returning from Spain last weekend with just a few hours’ warning.

Belgium and Croatia are expected to be next in line for restrictions imposed in England.

Sobel accused the government of taking a “blunt” approach, urging it to explore the idea of regional travel corridors. He explained: “The outbreak in Leicester didn’t mean we locked down the whole country – we just locked down Leicester. And we’re treating other countries differently to how we’re treating our own country.”

The culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, said on Wednesday that testing passengers for Covid-19 on arrival in the UK was “not a silver bullet”. It came after the boss of Heathrow airport called on the government to allow a trial in which passengers would be tested on arrival and then again several days later, allowing a significantly shorter quarantine period, in an attempt to save the summer season.

Sobel said the government should look at the plan: “The other suggestion that the government have ruled out, but should consider, is the idea of testing on return at airports, because people are effectively isolated in a place. You come through, you come off the plane, you go and collect your bags, you go through passport control; it’s a very controlled environment.

“Really, it’s an environment that could be used to test people. The government has said: ‘Oh well, one test can come out as a negative,’ but you can have, not in the airport, but you could have double testing. So, test in the airport straight away, [then test] after 48 hours at home. If it’s a double negative, then they’re probably negative.”