The industry has been given a ray of hope that travel could restart sooner than thought after the Government said countries with low coronavirus infection rates could be exempt from new quarantine rules.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said ministers are looking at ‘travel bridges’ between the UK and low-risk countries. It would mean anyone arriving in the UK from a low-risk destination would be exempt from having to isolate for a fortnight.
He said final details of the 14-day quarantine scheme, confirmed by Boris Johnson a week ago, will be released soon and the scheme itself will be ‘coming in early next month’.
He said that, initially, the 14-day rule will apply across the board, but added: “It is the case that we would indeed consider further improvements for example, things like air bridges, enabling people from other areas and countries who have themselves achieved lower levels of growth virus infection, to come into the country.
“So those are the active discussions, but will go beyond what will initially be a blanket situation.”
Airline and airport bosses, including Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye and Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary, have criticised the quarantine rule.
Holland-Kaye recently said the UK should adopt a risk-based approach to flights and warned the UK economy would suffer if blanket travel restrictions continued.
O’Leary has said the quarantine rule would be impossible to police.
Earlier, Oliver Dowden, secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said details of any quarantine exemption agreement between the UK and France have not yet been confirmed and people should hold off from booking trips to France for the time being.
When the quarantine rule was first announced, Downing Street’s initial guidance was that it would not apply to people travelling from France.
Downing Street later insisted there had never been an exemption for France, although it’s believed lorry drivers travelling between the two countries could be among those who would be exempt.
When asked by Sky News whether people could go ahead and book a holiday to France, he said discussions were on-going with French authorities, adding: “I think people should wait to see what the quarantine measures look like and what measures we take in relation to France.”
Speaking at a regular Westminster briefing for journalists, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said the 14-day quarantine will be reviewed every three weeks.
“Any changes brought in will be subject to a rolling review every three weeks to ensure they are in line with the latest scientific advice and that they remain effective and necessary,” the spokesman said.