By Estelle Shirbon
LONDON (Reuters) – British authorities are worried about a second wave of coronavirus infections in Europe and will not hesitate to bring back more quarantine measures, possibly within the next few days, as they did with Spain.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said COVID-19 was under some measure of control in Britain, but a resurgence in some European countries showed the pandemic was not over.
“It is absolutely vital as a country that we continue to keep our focus and our discipline, and that we don’t delude ourselves that somehow we are out of the woods or that that is all over, because it isn’t all over,” he said.
Last weekend Britain re-imposed a 14-day quarantine period on people arriving from Spain, a move that caused havoc with the reopening of the continent for tourism in the summer high season.
Health minister Matt Hancock stopped short of naming other European countries that might end up back on the quarantine list, but cited France as an example of one where infections have lately risen.
“I am worried about a second wave. I think you can see a second wave starting to roll across Europe, and we’ve got to do everything we can to prevent it from reaching these shores, and to tackle it,” Hancock said during an interview on Sky News.
When asked whether Britons should be prepared for more measures to be announced within the next few days, he said yes.
“The number of cases have gone up sharply in some countries in Europe … France now has more cases than we do, per day, and in Spain we saw the numbers shoot up which is why we had to take the rapid action that we did,” Hancock said on Talk Radio.
France reported almost 1,400 new cases on Wednesday, the highest daily increase in more than a month.
Britain reported 763 new confirmed cases on Wednesday.
Hancock said the authorities were working on possible ways to shorten the quarantine period for people coming from Spain, such as by testing them during the quarantine period.
“But we are not imminently making an announcement on it,” he said in a BBC television interview.
In Britain, the number of cases had stopped falling and was at best flat, which was a result of increased social contact as lockdown measures have gradually been eased, Hancock said. He urged people to keep following social distancing guidelines.
An analysis from Britain’s statistics office showed on Thursday that the United Kingdom has suffered the highest rate of excess deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic in a comparison of 21 European countries.
(Writing by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Peter Graff and Frances Kerry)