What are the travel quarantine rules in Spain, France and other countries? - The Telegraph

What are the travel quarantine rules in Spain, France and other countries? - The Telegraph

What are the travel quarantine rules in Spain, France and other countries? - The Telegraph

Posted: 28 May 2020 01:16 AM PDT

Countries around the world have used quarantine measures to prevent infected travellers spreading coronavirus within their borders.

With infection rates now falling in countries which have suffered thousands of deaths from Covid-19 many of those travel restrictions are set to be lifted, just as Britain is planning to impose its own 14-day quarantine on overseas visitors.

Here The Telegraph looks at how those measures worked and talks to some of the people caught up in them to see what lessons can be drawn for controlling the arrival of potentially infected travellers into the UK.


Quarantine since May 15, not yet lifted but ministers aim to reopen borders in July

Spain has announced it will welcome foreign tourists back to the country from July 1, ending its two-week quarantine policy but it remains to be seen whether Britons will be able to visit. 

Spain moved to impose quarantine on all international arrivals, whatever their nationality, from midnight on May 14, just as Barbara Rees was entering the country after waiting fruitlessly for more than a month to get her campervan back to her Spanish home via ferry.

Ms Rees had left her idyllic home in the picturesque Andalusian hilltop village of Iznájar in February to help her sister with a personal matter in Britain, just as the Covid-19 pandemic was about to explode across Europe.

She found herself stuck living in her newly bought campervan on the driveway of a former workmate from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary in Southampton, buying tickets for ferries to Bilbao that never sailed.  

"I was desperate to get home to Spain, but it is a global pandemic and things just snowball so fast," the retired Ms Rees told The Telegraph.  

When Brittany Ferries cancelled a third intended crossing set for May 17 and refunded her, Ms Rees decided to drive all the way, via the Eurotunnel, and through France and Spain. She crossed the border into Spain at Irún hours before the quarantine rule kicked in, but decided to observe two weeks of self-isolation once at home in any case.

The Spanish government only introduced the requirement once the epidemic in the country, which has killed more than 26,000 people, was under control and the lockdown being rolled back. New arrivals are told to stay at home or in their accommodation at all times, unless they need to buy essential items, and to be available to be contacted by health authorities.

The Seven Seas Navigator cruise ship docked in Barcelona  Credit: Shutterstock

"It's such a small community here, the health centre will know where I am. On the second day back, a person from the council brought me a face mask and a friend has dropped off supplies," Ms Rees said.

"Coming from the UK, where things are not being so well handled, I thought I should stay in quarantine. Perhaps it should have been done earlier. It's a bit like locking the door after the horse has bolted."

Ms Rees thinks that Spain's quarantine law will have to change if the country wants to welcome foreign tourists this summer, but she understands the government's argument that until Spaniards are allowed to travel freely around the country in late June or early July, it would not be fair for international visitors to do so.

"At least in Spain you know exactly what's happening, and what you can and cannot do, unlike in the UK."


Quarantine since March 14, currently undergoing a trial to see if it can be lifted

Since March, compulsory quarantine for inbound passengers has been a vital first line of defence against the virus in Taiwan, and it appears to have worked.

Despite being located just 80 miles off the coast of China, to date it has only seen 441 cases and seven deaths.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Howard Jyan, the head of the government cyber security department, said the system begins at the airport when passengers fill out a form on their mobile phones and the details are fed into a centralised system. Each case is then assigned a social and health worker and a police officer.

The social worker calls twice a day to check the person doesn't skip quarantine, leaving their phone at home. If a phone is unanswered every 15 minutes for an hour, it prompts a home visit by the police.

Home isolation is enforced by base station triangulation. It operates through a mobile phone-based "electronic fence" that uses location-tracking to a range of roughly 300 metres. If the phone leaves this area, the user and local officials receive an automated text message alert.

Taiwan has so far resisted using GPS with the view that it is unnecessarily invasive, and the surveillance system is controlled by strict curbs under the Communicable Disease Control Act.

A sightseeing bus in Taipei being disinfected  Credit: Reuters

To ensure privacy, only the commander of the central pandemic taskforce has access to the names of the mobile phone users or has a nationwide overview.

Monitoring is carried out county by county, and no names are given to the police. All data is then deleted at the end of the 14-day period.

Quarantine violations can, however, result in hefty fines of up to $33,000 – a maximum penalty that was slapped on one partygoer when he visited a nightclub and got caught in a police spot check.

Mr Jyan said there had been near universal compliance. "Our citizens believe they should stay at home and not hurt other people. I think that is part of the culture," he said.

Local authorities have been giving out gift packs, containing face masks, a thermometer, sanitiser and instant noodles, to people obliged to isolate at home.


Quarantine of arrivals since March 16, hoping to lift June 15 and at the latest July 1

When Panos flew back home to Athens from Brussels his welcome home was a seat on a coach taking him to one of Greece's quarantine hotels.

It was part of a system imposed by the Greek government from March 18, when it banned all visitors from non-EU/Schengen countries and those deemed too dangerous because of high levels of coronavirus, such as the UK, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands.

Those travellers allowed into the country are tested for Covid-19 and pending a result - usually available within 24 hours - taken from Eleftherios Venizelos airport to specially designated hotels in the capital.

Panos, 40, a private sector employee who had travelled by train from the Netherlands to Belgium before flying to Athens on April 27, said that after a long wait inside the bus and an even longer one in the hotel lobby, they were all given their own room. 

"Smoking rooms were available. None of us were allowed to go out. Staff left our meals outside the door and brought us anything they wanted," he said. "It was generally OK, apart from the waiting around."

Beach beds spaced out, maintaining social distancing Credit: AFP

When the test results came out 24-hours later three people, including Panos, were found to have tested positive and were obliged to stay under quarantine for fourteen days either in the hotel or at an address notified to the authorities. He opted to spend the next two weeks in his hometown of Corinth, in southern Greece.

According to the plan to kickstart the tourist season, announced by the Greek government on Wednesday, international flights will resume on June 15 from countries that the government has deemed safe. Flights from most other countries are expected to resume from July 1. 

Tourists will be allowed to enter the country without taking a coronavirus test or remaining in quarantine, though health officials will conduct spot tests to monitor the situation.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said only tourists from countries with acceptably low rates of virus infection would be permitted.

Although the list of safe countries has not yet been announced, it is thought they will include all Schengen countries, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Israel and Cyprus.


Quarantine of new arrivals since April 10, announcement it would be lifted for EU arrivals made on May 15

When Morgan Terry finally made it home to Germany after being stranded in Bulgaria for several weeks, she and her partner were expecting strict quarantine orders.

They already knew that anyone allowed into Germany was subject to two week's self-isolation at home.

But to their surprise they were waved through Berlin airport and allowed to enter the country without any official mention of the quarantine rules.

"We'd prepared documents to show we had somewhere to stay, but no one wanted to see them," says the 31-year-old Ms Terry, who is originally from New Zealand but has lived in Berlin since 2014.

"We followed the rules but only because we read them up ourselves on the internet. No one told us anything or came to check on us."

Ms Terry's experiences are typical. On paper, Germany's quarantine rules are strict, but there is little enforcement.

Until May 15, anyone entering Germany was subject to 14 days' home quarantine. Since then arrivals from the EU, UK and Schengen Area have been exempt.

Protesters at the German-Polish border Credit: Shutterstock

Fines for non-compliance are as high as €3,000, and repeat offenders can be quarantined in hospital.

But there are no checks at airports and borders and it is the responsibility of travellers to report their own arrival to their local health authority.

"When we got back we emailed the health authority to let them know we'. We got an email back telling us to let them know if we got sick or had any symptoms. But there was nothing about quarantine," says Ms Terry.

"We'd been warned about spot checks and people getting in big trouble, but it's been three weeks now. We finished self-isolating a week ago and we never heard anything."

While a few towns have conducted spot checks, many German municipalities say they simply don't have the resources to police the rules.

Until May 15, entry to Germany was largely restricted to citizens and long-term residents who were expected to follow the rules.

"I guess that's pretty typical of the German attitude," says Ms Terry. "Treat people like responsible adults and trust them."


Quarantine since March 28, to be lifted June 3

Travellers to Italy will soon no longer face a mandatory 14-day quarantine as the Government reopens its borders after one of the world's strictest lockdowns.

Until then visitors have to remain for a fortnight at home or an address of their choice under the supervision of the health authorities. If they have nowhere to stay accommodation is  arranged by the regional civil protection authorities. 

Anyone who violated the quarantine measures could receive a fine of up to 3,000 euros. In addition, anyone who has been quarantined after testing positive for Covid-19, and intentionally violates the order to stay at home, could face a prison sentence between one and five years. 

Quarantine measures will be lifted on June 3, when unrestricted travel between Italy and other EU and Schengen countries -- and within Italy itself -- resumes as the country tries to revive its ailing economy and tourism industry, which contributes about 13% of its gross domestic product. 

However, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has warned he is taking a "calculated risk" and that travel restrictions could be re-introduced if the curve of Italy's coronavirus infections worsens and there is a second wave. Already more than 32,000 have died of Covid-19.

But the new rules will apply only to travelers arriving from member countries of the European Union, those in the Schengen area, as well as the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, and the tiny states of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, and the Vatican.

Between June 3 and 15, travel to and from all other countries will still be prohibited, except for "determined work needs, of absolute urgency or for health reasons".

People gather in a square in Rome Credit: AFP

A government decree also states that those who test positive for Covid-19 or have had close contact with people with the virus will still be subject to mandatory quarantine measures. 

But Italian authorities haven't yet made clear how they would check or confirm travelers' contacts. 

With hotel occupancy down 99% for foreigners, Italy's national hotel federation said it has already lost 106,000 jobs and another 500,000 are at risk if travel doesn't return this summer.

Meanwhile, controversy over the contact tracing technology chosen by the Italian government to keep track of the COVID-19 contagions has delayed the launch of the app. It is now scheduled to be released by the end of May, almost two months after it was announced.

The app, called "Immuni", can tell whether a user has been close to an infected person and then recommend at-risk users what to do.

It was criticized by politicians and privacy experts because it was initially based on a centralized model, meaning that sensitive data would have been stored in a government-controlled system. The use of the app is also voluntary and anonymous, so it's still unclear if that could prove useful to track foreigners travelling to Italy.


Quarantine of some arrivals since May 3, restrictions to be "gradually" lifted from mid-June

French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian this week announced that French nationals entering the country from outside Europe will observe a "voluntary" 14-day quarantine "at home" or in a dedicated hotel from May 20.  

Initially, the government wanted to make such quarantine compulsory, but changed tack after being advised by the constitutional council that the move "deprived (the French) of freedom".

The government has mooted the idea of requisitioning hotels near Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris to allow people to observe quarantine there, or at a pre-specified French address if they have one.

Regarding travel across the "internal borders" of the EU, Schengen and from the UK, only essential travel is allowed and everyone crossing the border needs an international travel certificate.

Beyond French citizens, entry is limited to people whose primary residence is in France or those with essential family reasons.

There are exceptions, including healthcare workers, lorry drivers, cross-border workers and people who have their permanent residency in another European country and are travelling through France to get home.

France will review border controls on June 15th.

There is no exemption in place for travel between the UK and France Credit: AFP

The French foreign minister this week said he hoped checks would be relaxed on "internal borders", adding: "We have reciprocity agreements with neighbouring countries and one can imagine that progressively, provided deconfinement works and the pandemic does not resume, we will be able to reconsider these closure measures."

Currently, no incoming travellers from EU countries, including Britain, require quarantine - except Spain.

France's southern neighbour announced it would quarantine anyone arriving into the country from Europe from May 15, and France pledged to do likewise "on the principle of reciprocity".

Currently, both sides exempt cross-border workers, aircrew and long-distance truckers.

In practice, it appears no such quarantine has yet been imposed and France said the restrictions  "did not represent the desire" of France.

Regarding the UK, France has not officially responded to the British government's announcement that it will "soon" begin quarantining travellers, including from France.

A joint British and French working group is looking at this issue.

Interior minister Christophe Castaner this week said: "Regarding internal borders, we always seek coordination on a European level but we won't hesitate to take the necessary decisions should this coordination fail."


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