World UK keeping 'close eye' on France as COVID-19 cases hit two-month high

10:05  07 august  2020
10:05  07 august  2020 Source:   news.sky.com

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a woman standing in front of a building talking on a cell phone: Coronavirus cases in France have reached levels not seen since last May © Reuters Coronavirus cases in France have reached levels not seen since last May Coronavirus cases in France are being "closely monitored" by the British government, amid reports that the country is in danger of being added to the UK's quarantine list.

New infections in France have risen by more than 1,600 over a 24-hour period for a second day - putting the nation at levels not seen since late May.

On Thursday, the UK added Belgium, Andorra and the Bahamas to its quarantine list, meaning arrivals from these countries after 4am on Saturday will need to self-isolate for 14 days. The government is also advising against non-essential travel to these destinations.

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Sky's chief political correspondent Jon Craig said: "These won't be the last countries by any means to face new rules on quarantine for people coming back to the UK.

"The countries that are concerning the British government and which are being monitored very closely are Croatia, Romania, Hong Kong, parts of Germany, and most significantly France.

"France is the gateway to Europe for many holidaymakers. Of course, Belgium and France are served by the Eurostar - that will be a blow for them."

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Thousands of British holidaymakers are currently in France, with countless others booked to visit in the final few weeks of the summer holidays.

a group of people wearing costumes: A woman wears a face mask outside the Louvre in the French capital © Reuters A woman wears a face mask outside the Louvre in the French capital Travel consultant Paul Charles told The Times: "It is vital that France gets its case numbers down over the next five days if it is to avoid the government adding it to its quarantine list."

The southern city of Toulouse has joined Nice, Lille and other municipalities near the Belgian border in expanding rules around face coverings.

Rules have now come into force there making masks mandatory in open air markets, flea markets and garage sales, along with some of the centre's main streets.

Francois Chollet, the councillor in charge of the city's efforts to halt the transmission of coronavirus, told local media: "These are places for strolling, conviviality, festivity, at a time of the year when we are outdoors late at night.

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"Friendliness means that precautions can sometimes be a little loose. We are convinced that there is a major risk in these places."

Paris is also reportedly seeking to make face masks compulsory in certain outdoor areas, in a move to prevent a new spike in cases.

French officials say infection rates have risen across all age groups. Families going on holiday together, as well as young people failing to social distance, are believed to be factors.

Belgium has suffered a four-fold increase in coronavirus infections since mid-July, with latest figures showing 27.8 new cases per 100,000 people.

a person riding a bicycle on a city street: Cyclists wear face masks in Antwerp after lockdown measures were tightened © Getty Cyclists wear face masks in Antwerp after lockdown measures were tightened This is much higher than the UK's current 8.4, and is also above the 27.4 number that Spain had when the UK last month reimposed quarantine rules on arrivals from there.

Last week, Belgium's Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes introduced drastic new social distancing measures in the hope of avoiding a new national lockdown.

She announced a plan to limit contacts outside every household to the same five people for a month to limit the spread of the virus.

In Andorra, new cases per week have increased five-fold since mid-July, while in the Bahamas the weekly case rate peaked at 78.6 last week, up from 3.1 in mid-July.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned last month there are "signs of a second wave" of COVID-19 brewing in Europe.

But the World Health Organisation says such talk is unhelpful, with a spokesperson insisting: "We are in the first wave. It's going to be one big wave."

Stay alert to stop coronavirus spreading - here is the latest government guidance. If you think you have the virus, don't go to the GP or hospital, stay indoors and get advice online. Only call NHS 111 if you cannot cope with your symptoms at home; your condition gets worse; or your symptoms do not get better after seven days. In parts of Wales where 111 isn't available, call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47. In Scotland anyone with symptoms is advised to self-isolate for seven days. In Northern Ireland, call your GP.

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