Greece could be next on UK’s quarantine list as virus cases soar

Greece could be the next country removed from the government's list of "safe" countries after a spike in coronavirus cases.

If it were removed from the list, travellers returning to the UK from Greece would need to quarantine for 14 days.

Travel rules in the UK are ever changing while the pandemic continues.

The government recently confirmed travellers arriving from France will now be required to self-isolate for two weeks after rising cases of the deadly virus in the country.

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Now, EU figures have revealed the number of coronavirus cases in Greece has quadrupled in two weeks.

That puts it above the UK's benchmark figure of 20 cases per 100,000 people – the rate at which quarantine measures are triggered.

It comes amid suggestions Turkey could also be taken off the safe travel list and follows new rules introduced on August 15 requiring travellers heading back to the UK from the Netherlands, Monaco, Malta, Turks and Caicos, and Aruba to isolate for 14 days.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has previously said quarantine measures will be triggered against people arriving from nations with more than 20 infections per 100,000, on a seven day rolling average, The Mirror reports.

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Downing Street has added experts look not only at the infection rate per 100,000 people, but also at the testing rate and reliability of data which each country produces.

Mr Shapps told BBC Radio 4's Today programme last week: "With France and these other countries, the Netherlands and elsewhere, the numbers have now just got above the threshold – which is about 20 cases per 100,000 measured on a seven day rolling average.

"That's what the Joint Biosecurity Centre will be looking at."

A rolling review system could see countries removed from the list at very short notice.

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Forcing British tourists to self-isolate for two weeks after returning from Greece would be a fresh blow to Britain's hard-hit international travel industry after Spain, France and Portugal were put on the quarantine list.

Greece, where 223 people have died during the pandemic, was seen as safe for tourists.

But cases surged in the country after it reopened its borders to Britons in mid-July. Some 226 new cases were reported by the EU's coronavirus authorities on August 16, with more than 1,000 in the last five days.

Gkikas Magiorkinis, of Athens University, said earlier this week: "We can say that Greece has formally entered a second wave of the epidemic. This is the point that we could win or lose the battle."

Travel expert Alex Macheras told the Mail on Sunday: "Early in the pandemic Greece imposed a hard lockdown and controlled the spread of the virus.

"But this has been relaxed to the point of being totally random. As a result, the number of cases has soared. It is an example of a country wrestling with the competing interests of public health and the economy.

"Anyone travelling abroad must do it with their eyes open that there is a danger that quarantine can be imposed at any moment."

Brits desperate to escape for a sunshine getaway are running out of traditional hotspots unless they want to self-isolate for two weeks when they return to the UK.

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The Government's exemption list of "travel corridor" countries from which people arriving in Britain do not have to quarantine is kept under constant review as ministers and officials battle to prevent a resurgence of cases here.

Portugal was not on the exemption list when it was published last month and Spain became the first country to be removed.

France was stripped from the list last week, triggering a race for Channel ferry ports, airports and Eurostar terminals as Brits dashed for home before the restrictions came into force at 4am on Saturday, August 15.

Greece set a temporary 50-person limit on public gatherings last week and said restaurants and bars must close by midnight in Athens and other parts of the country.

They include favourite tourist destinations such as Mykonos, Crete, Paros, Kos, Santorini, Rhodes and Zakynthos.

A Government spokesman said: "Public health remains the UK's top priority, which is why we make changes to the list as necessary."