Possible UK plan for “air bridges” letting in passengers from some countries, so people can have foreign holidays…

Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary, has said there might be “air bridges” between countries with low coronavirus infection rates.  The 14 day quarantine, that might be imposed from around the start of June on arriving passengers (still not confirmed) might then be relaxed in favour of a more targeted focus on people from high-risk countries. It seems likely that the 14 day quarantine will start, for all passengers, with spot checks on people and possible £1,000 fines for those who breach the rules.  Any restrictions would be reviewed every 3 weeks to ensure that they “remain effective and necessary”. The idea of “air bridges” is to let people enter the UK – presumably without quarantine, if the R number (itself very hard to calculate or get a reliable figure on, without widespread effective testing) is below (?about) one.  So the thinking is that it would be OK for people to arrive in the UK, as long as they only spread Covid to less than one other person, on average.  The travel and aviation industries are desperate to get people flying again, and trying to convince people that the risk of personal infection is low – and convince governments that Covid infection, costing the UK a fortune, will not rise again, due to imported virus. 


‘Air bridges’ plan revives hope of summer flights

• Quarantine could allow low-risk travel from July • Smallest rise in deaths since lockdown
By Graeme Paton, Transport Correspondent |  and Oliver Wright, Policy Editor
Tuesday May 19 2020,
The Times
The transport secretary announced plans for “air bridges” between countries with low coronavirus infection rates.

Grant Shapps said that the strict quarantine on all arrivals into Britain could be relaxed in favour of a more targeted focus on people from high-risk countries.

The blanket quarantine measures will be introduced from early next month (June) to prevent a second outbreak of Covid-19 in Britain. All arrivals into the country — including Britons returning from abroad — will have to self-isolate for two weeks, with possible £1,000 fines for those who breach the rules.

It was made clear yesterday that the restrictions would be reviewed every three weeks to ensure that they “remain effective and necessary”.

Speaking in the Commons Mr Shapps confirmed that the government was also considering going “beyond what will initially be a blanket” quarantine to allow people from certain low-risk countries to enter the UK. It would create “air bridges” between Britain and these countries, he said. Many European countries, including Germany, Spain and Italy, are starting to relax lockdown conditions as coronavirus infection rates ease.

The comments will raise hopes that overseas travel, including summer holidays, may still be a possibility this year. The strict quarantine could be relaxed by the end of next month (end of June) at the earliest.

The details on Britain’s “air bridges” emerged as airlines said that they would be unable to increase flight schedules significantly while the blanket quarantine requirements remained in place. People travelling from Ireland and certain key groups, including hauliers, will be exempt from the blanket measures, although the rules will apply to those arriving from all other countries, including France. British Airways has said that it will not increase flights while the requirements are in place, and at the weekend Virgin Atlantic said it would take a similar stance because of concerns it would be unable to fill seats.

Michael O’Leary, chief executive of the budget airline Ryanair, said that the policy was “idiotic” and could not be policed, claiming that many people would refuse to follow the lockdown rules. Ryanair is planning to operate 1,000 flights a day by the start of July — 40 per cent of its total — with passengers having to wear face masks and undergo temperature checks at airports. “The 14-day lockdown has no credibility and I think will be eliminated by the time we get to the end of June anyway,” Mr O’Leary told Today on BBC Radio 4.

A spokesman for Airlines UK, the trade body, said: “Airlines are not going to operate if people are effectively told not to travel and that is going to do a lot of damage both to our tourism industry and businesses who rely on aviation for their supply chains and exports.”

Hopes [hopes of the aviation sector and foreign tourism sector] are growing, though, that the blanket quarantine could be replaced by more targeted measures, possibly within weeks. The European Union has banned tourists from outside the bloc until the middle of next month (June).

Tui, the UK’s biggest tour operator, is planning to operate holidays from June 14, with bookings increasing in July. At present people resident in Britain are advised against non-essential overseas travel.

From early next month all arrivals to Britain from abroad will have to provide an address where they will self-isolate for two weeks, with spot-checks carried out to ensure compliance. The measure forms part of the next phase of the government’s strategy to control coronavirus.

Yesterday the prime minister’s spokesman confirmed that the quarantine plans would be reviewed every three weeks “to ensure they are in line with the latest scientific advice and that they remain effective and necessary”.

Mr Shapps provided further details, including confirming that the measures would be introduced early next month. Huw Merriman, chairman of the Commons transport select committee, asked the minister whether he would consider establishing “air bridges” between countries where the R rate — the measure of how many people each infected person passes the virus to — was below one. Mr Merriman suggested that people from these countries should “not be subject to quarantine, which would boost confidence in aviation and travel”.

Mr Shapps indicated that the government would ultimately move to this model but declined to say when it would happen. “The final details of the quarantine scheme will be released soon and come in early next month,” he told MPs. “We should indeed consider further improvements, for example, things like air bridges, enabling people from other countries who have themselves achieved lower levels of coronavirus infection to come to the country. So those are active discussions that will go beyond what will initially be a blanket situation.”



Also Financial Times:

‘Air bridges’ plan to exempt countries from UK quarantine

Shapps tells MPs visitors from low infection rate nations could be excluded

By Jim Pickard and Alice Hancock

The UK government has said that countries with a low Covid-19 infection rate might in future be excluded from the new 14-day quarantine system under a network of “air bridges”.

Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, said the idea was being discussed by ministers and officials. It would mean some countries could eventually be excluded from what would start as a “blanket” scheme from early next month to quarantine most arriving travellers for two weeks.