The Netherlands and Malta are set to be removed from England’s travel corridor list but ministers are still mulling over a decision on France , the Guardian has learned.
The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, met with ministers on Wednesday afternoon where it is understood it was decided the Netherlands and Malta would be taken off the list after a rise in Covid-19 cases in the countries, but that a decision on France was delayed.
Ministers at the meeting are also understood to have agreed that the British overseas territory the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the island of Aruba, a Dutch constituent country in the Caribbean, should be listed for removal.
The move to take the four locations off the list – which means arrivals from those places to England will have to quarantine for 14 days once the measures are imposed – was initially expected to be announced on Thursday. However, it is understood Boris Johnson intervened to pause plans on Wednesday evening, with more time now being given to analyse Covid cases in France to see whether it should be removed alongside the other four locations.
A formal announcement is unlikely to come until Friday at the earliest so any new measures for countries, which may yet still include France, can be unveiled at the same time.
There are concerns in Whitehall that stripping France of quarantine exemption status would prompt travel chaos for hundreds of thousands of UK holidaymakers across the Channel, potentially creating a last-minute dash for those who would want to return home before measures came into effect. It is likely there would be a window of opportunity for this to happen if, like last week, ministers gave more than a day’s notice between announcing measures on countries and them coming into force.
France’s place on the travel corridor list hangs in the balance, with ministers due to consider the latest figures on Thursday. France recorded 2,524 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, representing the highest daily rise since lockdown measures were lifted in May. This figure topped the 2,288 cases on Friday and was followed by 2,184 infections on Saturday, 1,885 on Sunday and 785 on Monday – when the country’s health ministry reported the first significant rise in the number of people in hospital due to Covid-19.
Meanwhile, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, France’s 14-day cumulative number of Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people reached 30.4 as of Wednesday, compared with the UK’s 18.3.
The Netherlands has a rate of 37.9 per 100,000 over 14 days, and Malta has a rate of 61.6 per 100,000. Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain are among countries already removed, with the snap exit of the last of these at just a few hours’ notice in July causing chaos for holidaymakers.
Individual decisions on whether or not to remove countries are taken by devolved administrations, but England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all moved last Thursday to announce the imposition of quarantine measures on arrivals from Belgium, Andorra and the Bahamas.
Paul Charles, the chief executive of travel consultancy the PC Agency – which estimates there are half a million British tourists in France this week – had said he would be staggered if France was not removed from the travel corridor list. “You can’t fault the government for reacting to a resurgence in parts of Europe. I don’t think anyone’s critical of that if there’s a high caseload remerging, which there clearly is from the figures,” he said.
The Department for Transport declined to comment.