Will passengers arriving at Harwich from the Hook of Holland face two weeks quarantine?

A Stena Line vessel leaving Harwich Harbour seen from the boardwalk leading to Landguard Point Pict

A Stena Line vessel leaving Harwich Harbour seen from the boardwalk leading to Landguard Point Picture: RICHARD CORNWELL - Credit: Archant

Hundreds of passengers sailing to Harwich from the Hook of Holland on Friday evening were in a race against time to beat the government’s new quarantine rules.

The government has announced that a new self-isolation period applies to people arriving from some countries abroad from 4am on Saturday, including the Netherlands.

There had been confusion about whether the passengers would have to quarantine because, while the ferry officially ties up at Harwich at 6.30am after leaving the Hook at 10pm, it sails into UK territorial waters at 3am.

Officials at the Department for Transport were initially uncertain about the status of vessels, but later clarified the position - saying the time referred to when the ship arrived at the docks, not when it entered UK waters.

That prompted Stena to announce the ferry would go at full-speed across the North Sea in a bid to arrive at the Essex port just before the 4am deadline.

A Stena spokesman said all spaces on the daytime sailing were booked: “This news is very disappointing. We had been building up numbers over recent weeks after what has been the most difficult year we have ever had. We hope these restrictions do not last for long.”

The Stena Hollandica carries up to 1,200 passengers, 230 cars and 300 lorries during normal times, although social distancing rules restrict thiw – as does its sister ship on the route, the Stena Britannica.

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There are a number of exemptions from the quarantine rules – including for international truck drivers – so Stena does not expect the new restrictions to have a serious effect on commercial traffic.

MORE: Government supported ferry companies during the lockdown

Holland had the restrictions brought in along with France, Malta, Monaco, Aruba and the Turks & Caicos Islands in a move which caused frustration for hundreds of thousands of Britons on holiday in France alone.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps insisted the government had taken “a practical approach” to the new restrictions.

The latest 14-day cumulative figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control show 32.1 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people in France, compared with 18.5 in the UK.

The decision to add the Netherlands was made after a 52% increase in newly-reported cases between August 7 and 13, folowing a consistent series of rises in previous weeks.

Over the past week, there has been a 273% increase in newly-reported cases in Turks & Caicos, a 1,106% increase in Aruba and a 105% rise in Malta.

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