UK Transport Secretary announced via tweet last night at 11 pm that travellers from Monaco and France would face a mandatory 14-day quarantine when returning to the UK starting this Saturday at 4 am BST. Half a million UK citizens are currently on holiday in France.

The decision follows an ever-growing number of French coronavirus infections. Yesterday, the country reported 2,524 new Covid-19 cases, reaching a new post-lockdown record. Monaco has had 141 cases since the start of the pandemic and this Thursday registered three new cases.

France to respond with “reciprocal measures”

French reaction to the news was swift. Clément Beaune, France’s secretary of state for European affairs, tweeted that he “regretted” the new regulations and that France would respond with “reciprocal measures”.

British authorities remain adamant. “We have got to be absolutely ruthless about this, even with our closest and dearest friends and partners. I think everybody understands that,” said yesterday British Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to Northern Ireland.

British transport secretary Grant Shapps told BBC breakfast: “We’ve worked so hard in this country to get our level of infections down, the last thing we want do is to have people returning and bringing the infection with them. It’s to protect everybody.”

Transport industry struggles to cope with sudden demand

Matters are not made easier by the fact that France is the second most-visited country for UK citizens after Spain. The operators of the Channel Tunnel told the BBC that Friday’s trains were “already pretty much fully booked”.

“We just haven’t got the space to take everybody who might suddenly want to come up to the coast,” warned John Keefe, director of public affairs at Getlink during BBC’s Newsnight.

“The important thing is that people understand that it’s not going to be easy to get back,” he said. It’s sure going to be a chaotic Friday for British travellers returning home from France.

Other latest countries added yesterday to the UK’s quarantine list include the Netherlands, Malta, Turks and Caicos, and Aruba.