From Saturday, people travelling to the UK from France and the Netherlands will have to quarantine for 14 days after a surge in cases in the countries.
From 4am tomorrow, those returning from the countries, as well Monaco, Malta, Turks & Caicos and Aruba will be forced to self-isolate for two weeks.
They follow Spain, Belgium and Luxembourg in being removed from the authorities’ “green list” of countries exempt from such restrictions.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said that the government had had “no choice but to act” due to the surge in cases in France.
“The absolute paramount thing is public safety”, he said. “We have worked so hard as a country to get the numbers down.
“We have seen it lift across Europe and its really important that we try our hardest to prevent that from creating the problems that we are all so familiar with here.
“So we do need to act and I think the public have the right to expect us to act as soon as the figures justify it.”
In a statement, the Department for Transport (DfT) said that ministers had acted on the advice of Joint Biosecurity Centre and Public Health England, whose data had shown increased risk of contracting the virus in the countries.
French officials have warned throughout the crisis that any such measures will see them take reciprocal action.
In a tweet, France’s secretary of state for European affairs Clemence Beaune said the decision was a “regrettable” one.
The snap decision, which echoes the sudden imposition of such measures on Spain, means that hundreds of thousands of UK tourists in France will now have to scramble to get back before the measures kick in.
According to the DfT, there has been a 66 per cent increase in newly reported coronavirus cases and a 52 per cent increase in weekly incidence rate per 100,000 population in France in the last week.
Yesterday new cases in France hit their highest levels since lockdown ended, with 2,699 infections reported.
The Netherlands has seen a 52 per cent rise in newly reported cases in the last seven days, DfT added.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is also now advising against all but essential travel to the six countries.
Industry body Airlines UK’s chief executive said the decision was another “devastating blow” to an industry “already reeling from the worst crisis in its history”.
Tim Alderslade called on the government to switch instead to a regional approach to quarantine, as well as an airport testing regime, to give carriers the chance to operate through the winter.
“[The government should] avoid broad-brush, weekly ‘stop and go’ changes to travel corridors at a national level, which have proven so disruptive to airlines and passengers alike.”