It is understood a decision had not yet been made on whether to strike France from the safe list on Thursday night because ministers wanted to assess the latest data before acting.

Mr Johnson said the Government would be “absolutely ruthless” about imposing the measures, even with “our closest and dearest partners”.

Speaking during a visit to Northern Ireland, he said: “We can’t be remotely complacent about our own situation. Everybody understands that in a pandemic you don’t allow our population to be reinfected or the disease to come back in.

“That is why the quarantine measures are very important, and we have to apply them in a very strict way.”

Meanwhile, the Netherlands and Malta are set to be removed from the “travel corridor” list, Government sources confirmed on Thursday. The Turks and Caicos Islands and Aruba are also expected to lose their places.

A formal announcement on the status of the nations is now expected on Saturday, giving ministers more time to analyse cases patterns in France.

Up to 400,000 Britons on holiday in the country (see video below) face a potential last-minute dash to return home before the measures come into effect. It is understood that the Government would try to give at least 30 hours notice before imposing new restrictions.

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