Air bridges mooted for 6 July

British airways

The UK government is expected to announce a series of air bridges to a number of destinations from 6 July.

The government confirmed that it would revise its 14-day quarantine measures at Monday’s review, with prime minister Boris Johnson to make the announcement.

It has been reported that up 50 countries could be included in the quarantine-free list when it is published on Wednesday.

Ryanair, which is part of a legal move to have the quarantine removed, described it as “useless form filling”, calling for it to be replaced “with the scientific measures which are approved by the WHO and the ECDC, which comprise of mandatory face masks and rigorous hand hygiene on all forms of public transport where social distancing is not possible”.

The airline said that it had seen a spike in bookings, indicating that people planned to ignore the quarantine, adding: “The UK government’s idea of air bridges is more idiotic rubbish from a government who can’t operate a form filling quarantine or a track and trace system either.”

The Foreign Office was also expected to lift its caution against all but essential travel for those countries in the green and amber categories. Those travelling from red countries, where the virus was more widespread, would still be told to self isolate for 14 days and all travellers coming into the country would be required to provide the address where they will be staying.

A government spokeswoman said: “Our public health measures at the border were put in place to manage the risk of imported cases and help prevent a second wave of the virus, and will continue to support our fight against coronavirus.

“Our new risk-assessment system will enable us to carefully open a number of safe travel routes around the world – giving people the opportunity for a summer holiday abroad and boosting the UK economy through tourism and business.

“But we will not hesitate to put on the brakes if any risks re-emerge, and this system will enable us to take swift action to reintroduce self-isolation measures if new outbreaks occur overseas.”

ABTA said: “It is encouraging that the government has concluded its first review of its public health measures at the border, and that passengers arriving from certain destinations will not be required to quarantine. Confirmation of the list of countries is eagerly anticipated by the travel industry, and should encourage customers to book.”  

Earlier this month Thomas Page, global head of hotel & leisure group, CMS, told us: “The quarantine rules on incoming visitors seems especially bizarre, on the basis that many have been questioning why there has been no restrictions at all on incoming travellers since the start of the lockdown, not even temperature tests, questions about symptoms or contact with others with Covid-19. When I flew to Italy on 14 February, they were already temperature testing then, even though the outbreak had not started there then.

“So to impose a full 14-day quarantine now is clearly a case of shutting the stable door. Ministers responding to questions about the reason, saying it is to prevent those coming from countries with high infection rates initiating a second wave seem oblivious to the fact that almost no other countries have higher infection rates than the UK.

“I read that there is talk of exempting the whole of the EU from these restrictions. But it would be bizarre if you can come from Spain, but not from New Zealand, which has just been declared entirely Covid-free.

“This seems like responsive policy-making on the hoof to appeal to a voter base, not to actually seek the optimum fine balance between protecting public health and stimulating economic recovery.”

 

Insight: the increase in bookings for overseas holidays by UK residents reported by, amongst others, TUI suggests that the government’s attempts to keep Brits where they could see them has been largely ineffective. If, indeed, that’s what it was doing, as the motivation for the quarantine has yet to be put across in a convincing way.

But, as this hack can confirm, it sure did make for a heavy-handed landing into the UK, followed by a bizarrely hands-off quarantine period. Much as a number of private companies had closed their offices ahead of the UK government’s lockdown, it seems as though the public has decided to lift the quarantine itself, rolling the dice on the government doing anything about it first.

But away from second guessing what the UK government will do, this is good news for the travel sector, with hopes of a summer to claw back revenue for the hotel sector now rising. Even those countries left out of the air bridges in the EU were expected to benefit after a government spokesman admitted over the weekend that it was unable to prevent travel from country to country once within the Schengen region. Roll on summer and roll out the beach towels.