Transport secretary Grant Shapps has said that ministers had no choice but to remove France from the list of countries exempt from quarantine rules after a spike in coronavirus cases.
The restrictions, which were announced late last night, come into effect tomorrow morning at 4 o’clock.
Speaking to Sky News, Shapps said: “It’s a dynamic situation, and I don’t think that anybody would want us to do anything other than protect public health and public safety.
“That does mean where we see countries breach a certain level of cases, then we have no real choice but to act.”
The decision to implement the enforced self-isolation rules on France, as well as the Netherlands, Malta, Monaco, Aruba and Turks & Caicos, prompted a rush for the Channel by the 160,000 odd Brits estimated to be in France at the moment.
Despite the disruption, Shapps said that there would not be any special assistance for these holidaymakers, saying that they knew the risks involved in travelling.
The restrictions are another devastating blow for a travel industry already reeling from the coronavirus pandemic, which has wiped out most of 2020’s lucrative summer season.
Ministers have already imposed similar restrictions on incoming travellers from Spain, Belgium and Luxembourg, and have said they will not hesitate to do the same to other countries in the future.
A spokesperson for tourism industry body ABTA said livelihoods would be lost unless the government stepped in to support the sector.
“The announcements relating to Spain, and now France, impact the two biggest destinations for British holidaymakers at the height of the summer season, affecting an industry that has had its trade significantly restricted since the start of this crisis”, they said.
“At this time of recession, a plan is urgently needed to protect the 221,000 jobs the travel industry sustains.”
Aviation body Airlines UK urged ministers to move to a regional quarantine system, as well as introducing airport testing, in order to save the flagging industry.
Chief executive Tim Alderslade said such measures were crucial to provide carriers “additional certainty around the ability to operate this autumn and winter”.
Heathrow Airport echoed the calls, saying the UK needed to instigate a testing regime order to avoid playing “quarantine roulette”.
“Testing could provide an opportunity to safely reduce the length of quarantine in certain circumstances, protecting both the health and wealth of the nation as we pave a path towards a new normal”, a spokesperson said.
Shapps said that testing at airports was “not as straightforward as it sounds”.
A spokesperson for Eurostar said: “We will continue to monitor demand and adapt our timetable accordingly to ensure that those that need to travel can continue to do so at a safe distance apart.”