October 1, 2020

Manly Quarantine

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Wales hits back at Grant Shapps in quarantine list row

Wales has hit back at Grant Shapps in the quarantine list row as its furious...

Wales has hit back at Grant Shapps in the quarantine list row as its furious health minister claimed there was ‘very clear advice’ to add Portugal after devolved nations were accused of ‘jumping the gun’.

Vaughan Gething also said there had been a ‘rising tide of infections’ coming from the Greek islands and insisted the measure had been imposed to keep Wales safe.

The Welsh Government on Thursday said travellers from Portugal, Gibraltar, French Polynesia and six Greek island from 4am on Friday would have to self-isolate for 14 days.

The Azores and Madeira are exempt from the quarantine requirement, which applies to the Greek islands of Mykonos, Zakynthos, Lesvos, Paros, Antiparos and Crete.

One holidaymaker in Crete slammed the Welsh Government’s decision as ‘an absolute joke’ and said it was ‘beyond sense that they are taking this approach’.

It comes after Mr Shapps sparked a bitter row with Scotland and Wales after accusing them of quarantining Portugal and Greece because they had not inspected the data closely enough.

But Mr Gething told the Today programme there had been ‘very clear advice’ from the Joint Biosecurity Centre, as well as a number of cases being imported into Wales.

The Welsh Government on Tuesday advised passengers returning from Zakynthos to quarantine for two weeks and offered Covid-19 tests within 48 hours of their return, as well as eight days later.

‘That was because in the week before we had over 30 cases from four different flights, two of which had landed in England,’ Mr Gething told the BBC.

‘On that flight which landed in Cardiff on Tuesday, there are over 20 direct cases – that’s more than 10 per cent of that flight.

‘Seeing a rising tide of infections coming in from that list of islands, having that direct experience in Wales and very clear advice about the higher risk to UK public health from the JBC, I did not feel that there was any course of action other than taking some form of action.

‘It’s not for me to explain why others haven’t done that, but I’m very clear that we’re following that advice and keeping Wales safe.’ 

Vaughan Gething (pictured) said there had been a 'rising tide of infections' coming from the Greek islands and insisted the measure had been imposed to keep Wales safe

Vaughan Gething (pictured) said there had been a ‘rising tide of infections’ coming from the Greek islands and insisted the measure had been imposed to keep Wales safe

The UK assesses quarantine measures on how many cases countries have reported in total over seven days, per 100,000 of population. The rough threshold for imposing controls is 20

The UK assesses quarantine measures on how many cases countries have reported in total over seven days, per 100,000 of population. The rough threshold for imposing controls is 20

The UK assesses quarantine measures on how many cases countries have reported in total over seven days, per 100,000 of population. The rough threshold for imposing controls is 20

Portugal has been above the trigger threshold for UK quarantine measures for the past few days - but Grant Shapps said they were also looking at the proportion of tests that come back positive, and that had fallen

Portugal has been above the trigger threshold for UK quarantine measures for the past few days - but Grant Shapps said they were also looking at the proportion of tests that come back positive, and that had fallen

Portugal has been above the trigger threshold for UK quarantine measures for the past few days – but Grant Shapps said they were also looking at the proportion of tests that come back positive, and that had fallen 

Scotland and Wales have imposed restrictions on Greece, even though the case rates are still relatively low

Scotland and Wales have imposed restrictions on Greece, even though the case rates are still relatively low

Scotland and Wales have imposed restrictions on Greece, even though the case rates are still relatively low

An exclusive poll for MailOnline by Redfield & Wilton Strategies found just 24 per cent believe the quarantine system is working, while 48 per cent say it is not

An exclusive poll for MailOnline by Redfield & Wilton Strategies found just 24 per cent believe the quarantine system is working, while 48 per cent say it is not

An exclusive poll for MailOnline by Redfield & Wilton Strategies found just 24 per cent believe the quarantine system is working, while 48 per cent say it is not 

Amid rising anger from bewildered holidaymakers that the system amounts to ‘roulette’, Transport Secretary Mr Shapps conceded starkly different approaches within the UK were ‘confusing’.

But he insisted the Westminster government had assessed the best evidence and concluded that Portugal was still low-risk, and swiped at Scotland for decreeing that travellers from Greece must self-isolate this week before even seeing the latest data. He said Welsh minister might not have ‘noticed’ that the proportion of tests coming back positive in Portugal had fallen.

However, the Scottish government lashed back by accusing Mr Shapps of ‘jumping the gun’ by announcing a decision before the nations had discussed the situation. 

Mr Shapps also hinted that the government could take a more regional approach in future, and admitted that airport testing – demanded by many to save the aviation industry – could cut the 14-day quarantine period in half.

No10 dodges over advice on Portugal 

No10 today dodged questions over whether it followed scientific advice in deciding not to add Portugal and Greece to the quarantine list. 

Downing Street did not deny that the advice from the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) was that travel from Portugal and the six Greek islands restricted by Wales presents a risk of spreading coronavirus.

Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething said Wales was acting ‘in line with’ the risk assessments from the JBC in imposing a 14-day quarantine on arrivals from those areas.

A No 10 spokesman repeatedly declined to comment on what the JBC advice was but when pressed whether he disputes Mr Gething’s assessment, the spokesman said: ‘No.

‘Ministers assess the data which is provided by JBC and the JBC risk assessments are assessed by ministers.’

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The desperate defence came amid growing evidence that the public is losing patience with the regime. An exclusive poll for MailOnline by Redfield & Wilton Strategies found just 24 per cent believe it is working, while 48 per cent say it is not.

Most third wanting more countries added to the safe list.

Expectations had been growing for days that Portugal would be added to the quarantine roll this week after the total weekly cases per 100,000 of population rose above the UK’s trigger threshold of 20.

Mr Shapps had previously indicated that this was the main metric the government would look at to impose restrictions. But last night, he announced that there would be no change – pointing out that the proportion of tests coming back positive still remained low.

The move left some holidaymakers complaining that they had been forced to come home early unnecessarily to avoid quarantine, while others had stayed on and were caught out by the change in the nations.  

The Cabinet minister took thinly-veiled swipes at Wales and Scotland for their action today.  

Scotland and Wales are imposing 14 days of isolation on arrivals from Portugal. Scotland is also including Greece on its quarantine list, while Wales added seven Greek islands.

On a visit to an HS2 site in Solihull today, Boris Johnson said the different devolved administrations have ‘different rates of infectivity’ and approaches to the crisis.

‘But overwhelmingly the UK is proceeding as one,’ he said.

‘I think you will find if you dig below the surface of some of the surface differentiations you will find overwhelmingly the UK takes the same approach.’

Mr Shapps told Sky News: ‘I do realise it creates confusion for people not to have a single rule, but we do have this devolved approach throughout the United Kingdom and I can only be responsible for the English part of that.’

He said that Welsh ministers ‘had not perhaps noticed or seen’ that the proportion of positive tests had fallen in Portugal, as the overall number of tests were up.

And Mr Shapps claimed that Scotland had taken steps against Greece earlier this week without waiting to see the latest data from the Joint Biosecurity Centre. 

He said the UK Government’s review concluded no changes were necessary partly because test positivity in Portugal came down while the number of cases overall in Greece had fallen.

Shapps admits airport testing could halve quarantine period 

Grant Shapps today admitted that introducing coronavirus testing at airports could halve the 14-day quarantine period. 

The Transport Secretary told Sky News the government was not ‘ignoring’ desperate pleas from the aviation sector. 

‘I know that airport testing is one of those things that sounds so logical. You come in, you get a test, perhaps one of these very quick test and you are free not to quarantine,’ he said.

‘The problem we have, and this is what I am working with airports on at the moment, and the industry, is that a day zero test as you get home is unlikely to find the vast majority of people who have travelled with coronavirus but are asymptomatic…

‘There are arguments about this, but PHE say that would perhaps pick up just seven per cent of people who are in fact positive, and allow those people to sort of go off.

‘So you probably have to have some kind of quarantine period in here, perhaps seven or eight days, maybe a test then.

‘But these are the things that we are working through at the moment.’

Mr Shapps also said there was an ‘argument’ for judging islands separately from mainland countries. ‘I think there is an argument for regionalising it… but having said that… actually the islands (in Spain) now wouldn’t be fine.

‘But it is fluid and I do accept there is space to look at those types of things.’

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‘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,’ he said.

‘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 Scottish Government said it was ‘unfortunate’ that Westminster announced its quarantine decision before ministers from across the UK considered the latest data showing a ‘significant rise’ in cases in Portugal.

A spokesman said: ‘In the case of Greece, we had a worrying number of people in Scotland who tested positive for Covid-19 and who had returned from Greece within seven days of the onset of symptoms. The Scottish Government could not afford to ignore that growing threat to public health.

‘In the case of Portugal, it was unfortunate that the UK Government announced their decision yesterday before ministers from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland met and before considering the latest Joint Biosecurity Centre data. This indicated a significant rise in both the prevalence of the virus in Portugal and in test positivity.

‘As ministers have said repeatedly, we are in the midst of a global pandemic and the situation in many countries can change suddenly. Therefore, people should think very hard before committing to non-essential travel abroad.’

Downing Street did not deny that the advice from the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) was that travel from Portugal and the six Greek islands restricted by Wales presents a risk of spreading coronavirus.

Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething said Wales was acting ‘in line with’ the risk assessments from the JBC in imposing a 14-day quarantine on arrivals from those areas.

A No 10 spokesman repeatedly declined to comment on what the JBC advice was but when pressed whether he disputes Mr Gething’s assessment, the spokesman said: ‘No.

‘Ministers assess the data which is provided by JBC and the JBC risk assessments are assessed by ministers.’ 

Mr Shapps said testing at airports is not a ‘silver bullet solution’ to end quarantining and the ‘vast majority’ of asymptomatic cases would not be detected by one test alone. 

But he told Sky News they were not ‘ignoring’ calls for testing at airports – and it could potentially slash the quarantine period in half. 

‘I know that airport testing is one of those things that sounds so logical. You come in, you get a test, perhaps one of these very quick test and you are free not to quarantine,’ he said.

‘The problem we have, and this is what I am working with airports on at the moment, and the industry, is that a day zero test as you get home is unlikely to find the vast majority of people who have travelled with coronavirus but are asymptomatic…

‘There are arguments about this, but PHE say that would perhaps pick up just seven per cent of people who are in fact positive, and allow those people to sort of go off.

‘So you probably have to have some kind of quarantine period in here, perhaps seven or eight days, maybe a test then.

‘But these are the things that we are working through at the moment.’

Mr Shapps also said there was an ‘argument’ for judging islands separately from mainland countries. ‘I think there is an argument for regionalising it… but having said that… actually the islands (in Spain) now wouldn’t be fine.

‘But it is fluid and I do accept there is space to look at those types of things.’

There had been speculation that Westminster would reimpose the requirement on Portugal due to a spike in Covid-19 cases, leading many holidaymakers to pay hundreds of pounds to fly home this week.

Jonathan Lake with his son. The Welsh father-of-two whose family will have to self-isolate for 14 days after remaining out in Greece has branded the inconsistency between Westminster and Cardiff 'an absolute joke'

Jonathan Lake with his son. The Welsh father-of-two whose family will have to self-isolate for 14 days after remaining out in Greece has branded the inconsistency between Westminster and Cardiff 'an absolute joke'

Jonathan Lake with his son. The Welsh father-of-two whose family will have to self-isolate for 14 days after remaining out in Greece has branded the inconsistency between Westminster and Cardiff ‘an absolute joke’

In a round of interviews today, Grant Shapps admitted the government's coronavirus quarantine rules cause 'confusion' after England kept Portugal on the safe list - despite Scotland and Wales imposing curbs

In a round of interviews today, Grant Shapps admitted the government's coronavirus quarantine rules cause 'confusion' after England kept Portugal on the safe list - despite Scotland and Wales imposing curbs

In a round of interviews today, Grant Shapps admitted the government’s coronavirus quarantine rules cause ‘confusion’ after England kept Portugal on the safe list – despite Scotland and Wales imposing curbs

In Wales, the need to isolate for 14 days when arriving from Portugal, Gibraltar and seven Greek islands came into force at 4am on Friday.

In Scotland, passengers arriving from Portugal will have to quarantine from 4am on Saturday, as well as those arriving from French Polynesia.

Scotland began requiring travellers from anywhere in Greece to enter quarantine from Thursday.

There were 23 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people in Portugal in the seven days to Wednesday, up from 15.3 a week earlier.

A seven-day rate of 20 is the threshold above which the UK Government has considered triggering quarantine conditions.

Industry leaders and holidaymakers criticised the Government, saying travellers are ‘totally confused’ by the different approaches in Westminster and the devolved administrations. Critics have labelled the system ‘quarantine roulette’. 

Kelly Jones and her family changed their flights home from the Algarve from Saturday to Friday at a cost of £900 to avoid a potential quarantine, because she did not want her children to miss two weeks of school.

The 45-year-old from Birmingham said the situation was ‘absolutely disgusting’, telling the PA news agency: ‘The Government just change the goalposts left, right and centre at the moment. It’s embarrassing.’

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy the PC Agency, said: ‘The quarantine policy is in tatters and dividing the United Kingdom.

‘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.’

It came as figures showed the number of close contacts of people who tested positive for Covid-19 being reached through Test and Trace was at its lowest since the system was launched.

Thursday also saw the highest daily total of virus cases since June 4, with 1,735 positive results in the 24 hours to 9am.

The post Wales hits back at Grant Shapps in quarantine list row appeared first on Sound Health and Lasting Wealth.

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