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British tourists will soon be able to fly to holiday hotspots including Spain and Greece — and possibly far-flung destinations such as Bermuda and Australia — without facing a 14-day quarantine on their return.
Under a new traffic light system laid out by the government, people will be allowed to arrive in the UK without self-isolating if they travel from “green” or “amber” countries. Number 10 said it would set out the full list of countries next week, which is expected to include France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Denmark.
Only those arriving from “red” countries — likely to include Brazil, Russia and the US — would have to endure rigorous public health measures at the border. Travel agency Tui on Friday cancelled all holidays to Florida until December.
Friday’s announcement on new air corridors marks the unravelling of the quarantine policy — just three weeks after its introduction — which was criticised both for its late implementation and its damaging impact on the economic recovery.
Tourists arriving in the UK from ‘red’ countries, such as Brazil, Russia and the US, face rigorous health measures © AFP via Getty
Stephen Phipson, chief executive of manufacturing group Make UK, said the “isolationist” quarantine rules had been introduced at the wrong time. New air bridges were needed “as a matter of urgency” and would be a big boost for companies, he said.
Paul Charles, spokesman for campaign group Quash Quarantine and chief executive of travel agency PC Consultancy, said he believed there would be 30-40 countries in the green and amber categories.
“We welcome the decision to open up tourism ahead of the summer but we still need urgent visibility on the exact countries that will be included in the traffic light system,” he said.
“The travel sector is desperately trying to plan for the summer in order to protect as many tourism jobs as possible and we need a detailed road map on how these corridors will open up.”
Meanwhile, the Foreign Office is set to lift its warning against all but essential international travel, which has been in place since March 17.
Dominic Raab, foreign secretary, has agreed that the travel advice will be eased in countries and territories where the public health risk is no longer “unacceptably high”.
Those new exemptions will be announced next week and are likely to begin on July 6, although travel advice will remain under constant review.
Downing Street insisted that the new regime would be based on “robust public health criteria” and insisted the overall quarantine would remain in place to prevent a second wave of Covid-19 infections while the new transport corridors would be constantly monitored.
“We will not hesitate to put on the brakes if any risks re-emerge in the UK or within those countries we deem to be on our Covid travel list,” Downing Street said, adding the move would “provide a vital lifeline for UK travel operators and those whose jobs rely on the travel industry”.
The government said the traffic light system would judge countries according to the prevalence of coronavirus, confidence in the reliability of their data and the trajectory of the disease in the country.
This article was first published at https://www.ft.com/content/b93048cf-ee47-4cc6-a6d4-e916613bf8c1