Quarantine ‘scrapped and replaced with air bridges in weeks’ as PM to keep holiday hopes alive for lockdown-weary Brits – The Sun

QUARANTINE rules look set to be ditched as Boris Johnson wants to keep summer holiday hopes alive amid the easing of lockdown.

The PM has reportedly told ministers to work on solutions to keep international travel open for lockdown-weary Brits.

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It comes as Home Secretary Priti Patel is set to reveal today that countries with strict anti-coronavirus measures are likely to be handed "air bridges" in the future.

She will also reveal details of the upcoming quarantine plan – with some aspects expected to be watered down.

Air bridges are links between Britain and some countries with low infection rates – with hopes they could be in place by the end of June.

The 14-day isolation for everyone arriving in the UK is already locked in and will be introduced on Monday.

It could mean that Brits wanting to go away this summer would have to take an additional two weeks off work for their hols.

Tourist bosses and business chiefs have warned current plans could devastate their industries and lead to mass unemployment.

The PM is pushing for air bridges to allow Brits to go aboard and foreign tourists to come here, reports the Daily Mail.

A Downing Street source said: "We will be guided by the science, but the PM does not want to be standing in the way of people's holidays unnecessarily."

Ministers are reportedly also weighing up plans to test travelers for coronavirus upon their arrival in the UK.

Quarantine will be reviewed on June 29 to see if infection rates are low enough so measures can be relaxed to allow the "air bridges" to be set up.

However, Ms Patel has warned "we will all suffer if we get this wrong" as she said the UK "owes it to the victims of Covid-19" to impose a quarantine.

Writing in the Telegraph, the Home Secretary argues that tourism will be back quicker if tougher steps are taken against the virus.

She does raise the possibility of air bridges – but stopped short of putting on a hard date – in the article jointly penned with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

Ms Patel said: "Let’s not throw away our progress in tackling this deadly virus. We owe it to the thousands who have died."

She added: "We must keep the country safe from potentially infected passengers unknowingly spreading the virus to others in society and ensure that the public’s health always comes first."

Home Office officials are reportedly not sure whether the air bridges plan will be ready by the end of June despite pressure from ministers.

Ministers are reportedly divided over the issue – unsure about risking further damage to the economy post-lockdown.

Rules for the new quarantine will see all arrivals – aside few a few exceptions – required to complete an online form when they arrive in the UK.

They will have to turn over their contact details and the address where they will required to self-isolate for 14 days.

Public Health England will then make random spot-checks on people to make sure they are obeying the quarantine.

Anyone who fails to comply with measures risks prosecution and a potentially unlimited fine.

Foreign nationals could also be deported if they refuse to abide by the quarantine, and Border Force may be able to turn people away on arrival.

Failure to complete the online form when you arrive in the UK is also subject to a £100 fine.

It is feared thousands of travelers infected with coronavirus entered the UK in the early days of the pandemic, streaming in from hotspots such as Italy and China.

Public health experts have warned the idea of an air bridge may be impossible for the UK this summer as concerns loom it is not safe.

Gary McLean, a professor in molecular immunology at London Metropolitan University, told the Guardian the Government making a U-turn will impact how people obey the rules.

He said: "This is yet another initiative that is going to be open to interpretation, open to abuse, and the government is back-pedalling over pressure internally within the Tory party, within business,  and it seems to be a political decision, not a health decision."

European countries Brits could soon jet to for a holiday

  • France is opening the borders for Brits from June 15
  • Greece announced British tourists could also travel there from June 15
  • Italy is set to welcome UK travellers from tomorrow (June 3)
  • Portugal has announced they want tourists back from June 6
  • And Spain will be a destination many Brits are keen to get back to, but at the minute it is unclear when they would be allowed into the country

David Hunter, professor of epidemiology at Oxford University, said the "dynamic" situation with the pandemic also makes the air bridges hard to manage.

He said: "If the countries agree and the rules are clear and the contingencies are clear, then at least people know what they could be in for, whereas if it’s all vague then it’s a bigger risk.”

The professor added: "Air bridges between countries with similar Covid risks make sense, if it’s in the interests of both countries.

"When it’s asymmetric, it’s not obvious how that would work."

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has already said the government is considering relaxing the border rules before they have even come into force.

During the No.10 briefing, Mr Hancock said he was growing "more optimistic" about the return of summer holidays.

However, he added: "Clearly the number one priority is keeping the public safe.”

During the press conference Mr Shapps also assured measures will be reviewed "every few weeks" to see if Britain can open up to tourists.

He said: "We are working to see how we can introduce agreements with other countries when safe to do so, so we can go abroad and tourists can come here.”

It comes as 300 business chiefs urged the government to ditch the "unworkable, ill-thought out" quarantine plan.

George Morgan-Grenville, the chief executive of Red Savannah, who is leading the campaign, said: "The findings are catastrophic for the UK economy and for the travel and hospitality sector.

"By pursuing its quarantine plans without due regard for the economic consequences, the Government is choosing to ignore the devastation it will cause to companies, to employment and to the lives of all those whose jobs will be lost.

"The quarantine measures are a blunt weapon which will bring only economic disaster."

Some European nations – such as Italy and Spain – are already planning to open up their borders in the coming months.

Portugal has said it was ready to welcome back Brits within days because it reportedly believes the UK has coronavirus "under control".

France will also open up the border to Brits from June 15, while Italy is keen to kickstart the tourism there – now allowing travelers in.

Meanwhile Greece’s tourism minister Harry Theocharis told the Daily Mail the epidemic was moving “in the right direction” in the UK and coronavirus restrictions for Britons would be lifted from June 15.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Our priority will always be to protect the public’s health and these new measures are being introduced to do exactly this.

"This quarantine system is designed to keep the transmission rate down, stop new cases being brought in from abroad and help prevent a devastating second wave of coronavirus. All of our decisions have been based on the latest scientific evidence.

“We are supporting businesses in the tourism sector through one of the most generous economic packages provided anywhere in the world and we will continue to look at options to increase international travel, when it is safe to do so, as we move forward.”

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