How Does the UK Government Decide Which Countries to Quarantine?

It is a surprisingly simple formula that gives an indication of which country may be going on and off the list. Much of the Alps and Pyrenees are out of bounds unless you are prepared to go into 14-day quarantine, but not everywhere.

The decision is generally triggered when 20 or more people out of every 100,000 in a country are infected over seven days.

The figures are easy enough to find before the government publishes them.

One of our preferred web sites is the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control – it gives an overview of 14-days and sometimes a bit of easy maths is required.

Or look at other web sites such as WorldMetres – then total the past 7-days and make the necessary division of 100,000 per total population of country.

However, it is not quite as simple as that as the UK’s Joint Biosecurity Centre, that advises the government, also looks at things.

  • An estimate of the proportion of the population that is currently infectious
  • Trends in the number of cases and deaths
  • Information on a country’s testing capacity
  • How much the virus has spread, including clusters of cases and the level of transmission in the community

This week England did not put a quarantine on people arriving from Portugal despite a rise in cases and a figure over 20 in 100,000.

The Department for Transport says the reason for not putting Portugal on the list of countries from which returning travellers to England must quarantine is that: “Portugal has drastically increased its testing capacity, as well as taking measures to control the spread of the virus.

“We will closely monitor this situation, and as the Secretary of State for Transport has made clear, we are prepared to act at pace to remove a country from our Travel Corridor list in order to protect public health.”

The government tends to announce the result on Thursday afternoon with the quarantine coming into force on 04.00 the following Saturday.

However for Spain, which had rapidly rising cases, only 5-hours notice was given back at the end of July.

Last week PlanetSKI was in Switzerland.


Switzerland. Image credit – PlanetSKI

It was plain for any informed observer to see that an announcement of Switzerland going on the quarantine list would be made on Thursday , so we booked our crossing back on Friday evening ahead of the expected Saturday deadline.

Switzerland looks to be next alpine country to be added to quarantine list

The forecast announcement duly came.

Switzerland placed on UK quarantine list

It would have been possible to move over to Germany, currently exempt, and then drive across France to the Channel Tunnel.

But isn’t France on the quarantine list we hear you ask?

Yes, but it fine to self-drive across a country on the list as long as you don’t get out into a public space or let anyone into your vehicle.

You then need to take the Channel Tunnel without getting out of your car.

Channel Tunnel

Channel Tunnel. Image credit – PlanetSKI

Currently Italy is the only main alpine country exempt.

Germany has the Bavarian Alps and is also exempt.

France, Austria and Switzerland are on the quarantine list.

In the Pyrenees Andorra and Spain are on the quarantine list, as well as France.

Timetable of UK quarantine restrictions to countries in the Alps and the Pyrenees:

– 27th July – Spain

– 8th August –  Andorra

– 15th August – France

– 22th August – Austria, (plus Switzerland for travellers to Scotland)

– 29th August – Switzerland

So if you want to head to the mountains we have a single recommendation – Italy.

Its rate is rising, but at time of writing and in the short term it seems a safe bet.

However things can change very quickly, so don’t delay and keep checking the numbers.

Flying in and out is simple and it is still possible to drive without the need for quarantine if you are not quite ready for airports and planes.

Cross the Channel, drive across France without leaving your vehicle and then overnight in Germany.

Then drive across Switzerland to Italy crossing the St Bernard Pass into Italy – it takes around 4 hours.

And something we thoroughly recommend:

24-hours in the Aosta Valley

St Bernard Pass

St Bernard Pass. Image credit – PlanetSKI

Aosta Valley

Aosta Valley. Image credit – PlanetSKI

Then repeat the route on the way back.

The customs posts are unmanned and we weren’t stopped.

Italy to Switzerland:

Customs posts

Customs posts. Image credit – PlanetSKI

Switzerland to France:

Customs posts

Customs posts. Image credit – PlanetSKI

The checks, quite rightly, came at the entrance to the Channel Tunnel in Calais.

Customs checks in Calais

Customs checks in Calais. Image credit – PlanetSKI