Great Britain

Quarantine: Coronavirus Curtain still intact as Germany avoids ‘no-go’ list – but Cyprus is gone

Amid the gathering gloom of autumn and accelerating infection rates, the hardy British traveller can still climb the highest peak in the Netherlands mainland without triggering two weeks of self-isolation.

In his weekly Quarantine Tweet to the Nation, the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, moved Cyprus to the no-go list; its new cases of coronavirus are nearly half as bad as the UK’s.

Plucky Lithuania is now effectively out-of-bounds, too. But Germany, which has very similar numbers and is about to begin a nationwide lockdown, survives for another week.

Which means you may, if you wish, take a PCR test for the German authorities, fly to Dusseldorf and board a train to Aachen – the imperial capital of Charlemagne, the European superwarrior who is buried in the cathedral.

From here you can board a bus to the Dutch border. Hop off at the last stop in Germany, then follow the signs that point to the peak of Vaalserberg – ensuring you stay on the right side of the frontier.

In the weird world of 2020, you can stand almost at the point where Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands converge. But a single step across either border leads to a two-week journey of self-discovery in the shape of mandatory quarantine when you return to the UK.

This is one edge of the Coronavirus Curtain, the invisible barrier that separates the low-risk nation of Germany from its “unacceptably high-risk” neighbours: the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and all countries to Poland. Only Denmark is part of the quarantine-free alliance.

By next week, judging by the pace of infection, the “safe” country at the heart of Europe may have joined the Covid bloc.

During various airline and holiday crises over the years, I have occasionally and inadvertently assumed a role as the voice of travel doom. That job has now been secured by Mr Shapps, the caller in the weekly game of quarantine bingo.

No matter how shrill the appeals from the travel industry for less uncertainty, for some alternative to the two weeks of self-isolation: the transport secretary routinely triggers yet another mad rush for the airport, and a short-term bonus for airlines.

The cheapest fare from Larnaca in Cyprus to Heathrow soared above £500 within minutes of his latest announcement.

The government has yet to come up with any convincing reason why the entire African continent is deemed unacceptably high risk. But logic plays no obvious role in the decisions on quarantine.

The solemn warning that Cyprus is now too dangerous for British travellers erodes still further the reputation of Foreign Office travel advice, and it is demonstrably irrational to deter healthy Brits from spending time in lower-risk, outdoor-lifestyle locations rather than in the UK.

The damage that each week’s pronouncement causes is observable in jobs destroyed and hopes wrecked. But the point the government is trying to make remains as elusive as ever.

Meanwhile, If you are heading for that minor mountain in Germany’s far west, tread carefully.

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