Travelers going to Britain from countries with high rates of COVID-19 infections are avoiding mandatory quarantine in airport hotels by taking holidays in Turkey, according to a report in British daily The Times.
Tour companies are offering “quarantine packages” to travelers from countries on the UK’s “red list” such as India and Pakistan, to arrive via Turkey. They claim it is cheaper than quarantining on arrival. The travelers spend 10 days as tourists in Turkey before arrival in the UK.
Turkey has no quarantine requirement for most foreign tourists, and is not on Britain’s red list, although the country suffers from a high number of coronavirus infections and imposed a full lockdown last week to contain the virus. Foreign tourists are exempted from the lockdown restrictions and can travel at will around the country.
Following the new lockdown measures, which were imposed on April 29 after Turkey saw COVID-19 infections averaging around 60,000 a day during the peak week of April, the country’s daily cases dropped to some 25,000 this week, while the daily number of deaths, which has been over 300 since April 18, has shown no decline.
Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca warned last week that five cases of the new Indian variant had been detected in İstanbul.
The country’s main opposition Republican People’s Party and medical authorities have been calling on the Turkish government to implement restrictions for travelers from Pakistan just as it did for travelers from India.
“British citizens coming to Turkey from Pakistan can wander around freely, causing the Indian variant to spread here,” said Murat Emir, a deputy from the CHP.
“Turkey urgently needs to tackle this gap and implement the restrictions on Pakistan, as other European countries have done,” he said.
Health ministry numbers show record spikes in both deaths and new cases in India, with 3,980 people dying in the past 24 hours as well as 412,262 new infections, dashing hopes that the catastrophic surge was easing.
Experts say the real toll could be considerably higher.