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Q&A - What are air bridges and will I be able to go abroad this summer?

PUBLISHED: 11:38 27 June 2020 | UPDATED: 11:38 27 June 2020

Summer holidays could soon be back on the cards, as the government prepares to lift the 14-day quarantine rules in some countries. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Summer holidays could soon be back on the cards, as the government prepares to lift the 14-day quarantine rules in some countries. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Archant

Holidays abroad could be back on the cards this summer after ministers confirmed the requirement to self-isolate for 14 days when coming back to the UK would be scrapped for many destinations.

Trips to France, Greece and Spain look on the cards after the government confirmed it will revise the quarantine measures next week.

In place of the quarantine arrangements will be a traffic light system, with officials placing countries into green, amber and red categories based on the prevalence of coronavirus within each nation’s borders.

The Foreign Office is also set to lift its caution against all but essential travel for those countries in the green and amber categories to coincide with the announcement, thereby reducing travel insurance premiums.

Only passengers arriving into the UK from nations in the red category, where the spread of coronavirus is deemed to be high, will be told to self-isolate for two weeks, under the fresh proposals.

Despite being touted by the government as a country which could benefit from the new arrangements in little over a week’s time, Greek tourism minister Haris Theoharis indicated it could be up to three weeks before his country was happy to open up unrestricted travel with the UK.

A government spokeswoman said: “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.”

The quarantine measures have come in for heavy criticism since they were brought in this month.

Here is what you need to know about air bridges and travelling abroad.

- What are air bridges and how will the system work?

Also known as travel corridors, air bridges will allow Britons to go on holiday to certain destinations without needing to quarantine for 14 days on their return to the UK.

In place of the quarantine arrangements will be a traffic light system, with officials placing countries into green, amber and red categories based on the prevalence of coronavirus within each nation’s borders.

It is expected a quarantine-free list of countries will be published on Wednesday, with restrictions lifted as soon as July 6.

- Which countries are likely to be included?

The government is expected to announce next week Britain’s first air bridges with “low-risk” European destinations, including France, Italy, Spain, Greece and Germany.

According to reports, air bridges will be announced in batches, with the second set of destinations likely to include other European countries such as Denmark, Norway, Finland and the Netherlands, and “low-risk” Caribbean islands.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said air bridges would only be agreed with countries which have a coronavirus test and trace system of the same standard as that used in Britain.

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- When will air bridges be introduced?

The first air bridges to low-risk countries could be in force from July 4, but Mr Shapps said no announcement will be made until June 29, when the quarantine measures will be officially reviewed.

Greek tourism minister Haris Theoharis has indicated it could be up to three weeks before his country is happy to open up an air bridge to the UK, depending on the advice they get from health experts.

- Which countries are unlikely to be included?

There were mixed reports over whether Portugal would be included in the UK’s plans next week, after a spike in coronavirus cases in the country.

Long-haul flights to destinations such as Vietnam, Singapore, Hong Kong are reportedly not expected before late summer.

Flights to Australia are thought to be more complicated, due to the need to stop over in other countries, which increases the risk of contracting or spreading coronavirus.

- What are the rules on quarantine?

Since June 8, all passengers, bar a handful of exemptions, have been required to go into self-isolation for 14 days when they arrive in the UK.

People who fail to comply can be fined £1,000 in England, and police are allowed to use “reasonable force” to make sure they follow the rules.

- What measures have airports taken?

Last month, Heathrow Airport began trials of thermal screening technology to detect elevated temperatures of arriving passengers.

Edinburgh Airport has implemented a colour-coded one-way system to maintain social distancing, while protective screens have been installed at check-in, security and arrivals, and staff wear face coverings and personal protective equipment (PPE) in “passenger-facing areas”.

At Gatwick Airport, hand sanitiser stations, protective screens, regular deep cleaning and social distancing instructions have been introduced throughout the site, with face mask vending machines selling four masks for £3.

Pre-booked airport security slots are being tested at Manchester Airport, in which passengers can reserve a free 15-minute window to use a dedicated lane taking them directly to a checkpoint.

- What about on board flights?

It looks as though in-flight food and drinks will not be available, or at least be limited, for a while.

EasyJet said it will not have a bistro or boutique service on board, but will have drinking water available for those who request it.

The airline said it hopes to have a limited bistro service operating again “in the near future”.

Aer Lingus said it has suspended in-flight services on its short-haul trips and will have a reduced service on its transatlantic routes.


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