LONDON: Half a million Britons holidaying in France were on Friday (Aug 14) faced with the choice of returning in a hurry or staying put, after the UK announced a two-week COVID-19 quarantine for travellers arriving from over the Channel.
The announcement comes as French authorities battle a spike in new infections and is likely to spark a mass exodus by hundreds of thousands of tourists before the measure kicks in early on Saturday.
France is one of several countries now facing a resurgent second wave of cases since the new disease emerged from China late last year, claiming more than 750,000 lives and unleashing global economic havoc.
"The indicators are bad, the signals are worrying and the situation is deteriorating … The fate of the epidemic is in our hands," the country's national health agency chief Jerome Salomon told France Inter.
Britain had initially imposed a blanket quarantine on all visitors arriving in the country, but later carved out "travel corridors" which exempted travellers arriving from certain countries from having to self-isolate.
It reintroduced the self-isolation for travellers arriving from Spain in late July. France and the Netherlands were among several European destinations removed from the travel corridor list on Friday.
"If you arrive in the UK after 0400 Saturday from these destinations, you will need to self-isolate for 14 days," British transport minister Grant Shapps wrote on Twitter.
Briton Paul Trower told AFP he decided to cut short his visit to France after receiving several messages from friends warning him of the quarantine measures.
"We looked and tried to book a ferry, cancelled our holidays and come home to avoid it because my wife works and I look after my granddaughter," he said.
Tony Samson, also from the UK, said: "I think it's very sudden. I think it could be a bit more gradual."
French holidaymakers in the UK will be left to grapple with a similar dilemma after Paris swiftly announced a "reciprocal measure", although it was unclear when it would be imposed.
With more than 41,000 deaths caused by COVID-19, Britain is the worst-hit country in Europe and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been criticised over his handling of the crisis.
NEW STRAIN IN NEW ZEALAND
New Zealand is battling its own second wave of infections and extended a lockdown of its largest city by at least 12 days, giving health authorities more time to trace and contain a variant of the virus previously unseen in the country.
The Pacific island nation's initial response to the pandemic was hailed a success, but a run of 102 days with no reported community transmission was brought to an end on Tuesday after four family members in Auckland returned positive tests.
The country has now detected a cluster of 30 virus cases.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said stay-at-home orders would remain in force across Auckland until Aug 26 to prevent a mystery outbreak from becoming a fully blown second wave.
Genomic tests indicated the latest infections were not the same strain of coronavirus recorded in New Zealand earlier this year.