UK slaps quarantines on Greek island travellers as cases rise

LONDON (AP) — The United Kingdom (UK) on Monday recorded nearly 3,000 new coronavirus cases for the second day running and unveiled a new “islands policy” that will require anyone returning to England from seven Greek islands, including Crete, Mykonos and Santorini, to self-isolate for 14 days.

According to the Department of Health and Social Care, the UK reported 2,948 daily new coronavirus on Monday, down from the previous day’s number of 2,988, which had been the highest since May.

Although the higher cases can partly be attributed to more testing, it’s clear there’s been an uptick in the past few weeks as lockdown restrictions have been eased. In some places, local outbreaks in Britain have been so severe that many lockdown restrictions have been reimposed.

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the situation was “concerning” but denied that the government had lost control over the spread of the virus. He said those under 25 accounted for a large number of the new infections and appealed to them to keep social distancing to protect vulnerable loved ones.

“Don’t infect your grandparents,” he said.

People walk on the south bank of River Thames in London. PHOTO: AP

Britain’s Conservative government also said that travellers returning from seven Greek islands will have to quarantine for 14 days on their return to England beginning today. Lesbos, Serifos, Tinos and Zakynthos have been added to the UK quarantine list. The other Greek islands and the mainland remain free of quarantine requirements.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the changes are part of a new targetted risk approach to quarantine requirements to guard against importing coronavirus cases.

Britain has Europe’s worst death toll from the virus, recording more than 41,500 deaths within 28 days of testing positive. The actual toll is believed to be far higher as the government tally does not include those who died without having been tested.

The spike in UK cases follows big increases in Spain and France, both of whom have seen the number of COVID-19 patients being hospitalised rising dramatically during the summer.

Spain’s Health Ministry on Monday reported 26,560 new infections since its last report on Friday — an average of 8,800 new infections a day.

France has been averaging over 5,000 new infections a day recently. In France’s second city of Marseille, doctors have raised the alarm that nearly all the intensive care beds reserved for COVID-19 patients are already being used.

Over the past few weeks, British tourists have faced travel chaos as the government tweaked its weekly advice to popular holiday destinations.

The travel advice to the two most visited countries, Spain and France, changed at short notice, prompting many travellers to return to the UK in the middle of their vacations to avoid mandatory quarantines. Spain’s Balearic and Canary Islands remain on the UK government’s quarantine list.