Grant Shapps admits 'confusion' for holidaymakers after UK split on Portugal

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has admitted travel quarantine rules have created ‘confusion’ for holidaymakers, as the UK nations take different approaches to travel.

The Welsh government said last night people coming from mainland Portugal and six Greek islands will have to quarantine for 14 days, while Scotland announced that Portugal and the French Polynesia were being taken off the ‘safe’ list.

Meanwhile, England – which was expected to announce a two-week quarantine for Portugal and Greece – confirmed no changes would be made to air bridges.

In a round of interviews this morning, Mr Shapps said Greece and Portugal escaped the cut for England because figures suggested cases were decreasing in those nations – but warned Portugal was currently on the ‘borderline’ and being closely monitored.

The Government considers imposing isolation on travellers when a country’s infection rate exceeds 20 cases per 100,000, over a seven day period. Mr Shapps today named these numbers a ‘useful benchmark’, but said they were ‘one of the many bits of data’ the Government looked at, alongside test positivity ratio.

He told BBC Breakfast: ‘If you test more people, of course, your number of positives per 100,000 would be more just as a product of having tested more people.

‘We don’t want to penalise a country for doing the right thing, what we’re additionally interested in is how many of those tests were actually positive, so it’s getting that and in addition how it’s been treated, how fast it’s moving and whether the government in that country has a plan in place and many other factors that have to do with it.’

The minister revealed the Scottish Government had made decisions on its quarantine restrictions for Greece without looking at the Joint Biosecurity Centre’s data.

He said: ‘Now they did that because they had some particular concerns about cases which have returned to Scotland from Greece and we waited to see the joint biosecurity date this week on Greece and indeed it actually showed a small fall in the number of cases per hundred thousand.’

Comparing the differences with the varying states of lockdown, he said: ‘You have four nations looking at say one country, Portugal for example, and they have the data of that country and make a decision.

‘We do speak but I’m afraid quite often come to slightly different outcomes which I realise is confusing for people.

‘The thing that varies is actually the law or the way the law is drafted in each area.’

When questioned on testing at airports, Mr Shapps said it was not a ‘silver bullet solution’ to end quarantining as the ‘vast majority’ of asymptomatic cases would not be detected by one test alone.

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy the PC Agency, has slammed the Government, saying it’s quarantine policies were ‘in tatters and dividing the United Kingdom’.

He said: ‘Consumers are totally confused by the different approaches and it’s impossible to understand the Government’s own criteria any more on when to add or remove a country.’

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