Airlines are lobbying government to allow flights, with no quarantine, from 45 countries (“air bridges”)
The UK is due to start imposing 14-day self quarantine on any passenger arriving in the UK, by air or ferry or train, from the 8th June. This is considered by many to be far too late, but the government claims this is a sensible time to impose it. But the airlines believe quarantine would mean nobody would want to travel to the UK, certainly not for a holiday. And they feel few Brits will want to go abroad, if they have to lock themselves away for 2 weeks. So the airlines are lobbying for no less than 45 COUNTRIES to be excluded, so people could enter the UK from those countries with no quarantine. The choice of countries appears to be those that Brits most like to travel to, with odd additions and omissions. The hope is that these countries will allow Brits to holiday there, and encourage their citizens to come here. The idea is that the “air bridges” would be between countries with low Covid transmission. The problem is that the UK rate of transmission is currently not low. There are serious concerns that allowing so many people to enter the UK would increase Covid transmission. There is also the risk of the “Dublin dodge” by which people in countries not on the air bridge list can still enter the UK, quarantine-free.
The quarantine would not be policed and it may not be possible to enforce it. In theory there would be fines of up to £1,000 for not obeying the quarantine.
QUARANTINE: AIRLINES LOBBY MINISTERS TO EXEMPT 45 ‘AIR BRIDGE’ COUNTRIES
Many countries in Africa and the Caribbean are omitted from the ‘preferred’ list
By Simon CalderTravel Correspondent (The Independent) @SimonCalder
As travellers head for the UK ahead of the imposition of quarantine, Britain’s airlines have sent ministers a list of the 45 nations that they want to be exempt.
Downing Street and the Home Office are insisting that the plan for arrivals to self-isolate for two weeks must start on 8 June, despite many assertions that it is “too much, too late”.
British Airways has invited passengers booked to fly to the UK the chance to switch to flights arriving by 7 June to dodge the quarantine.
It is one of several airlines, including easyJet, Jet2 and Ryanair, that have written to the Department for Transport (DfT) demanding the rules should be lifted from key travel destinations.
Were the government to agree, almost all holidays will be able to go ahead in July and August, while some tourism to the UK might be rescued for the summer.
Just as the rest of Europe is opening up, the prospect of 14 days in self-isolation on return to the UK has stifled outbound holiday bookings and inbound visits for the rest of the summer.
Announcing the plan on 22 May, Priti Patel said: “We are taking these measures at the right time because we are serious about saving lives and controlling the virus.
“We will be guided by the science and the health of the public and the country will always come first, which is why we are implementing these restrictions at the border now.”
The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, and other senior ministers are appalled at the plan. They are concerned about the number of businesses and jobs that will be destroyed, and the competitive edge that will be handed to airlines based abroad.
Almost as soon as No 10 started briefing its quarantine plans, the DfT began to urge the use of so-called “air bridges”. Such bilateral deals are seen as the best means to limit the damage caused by quarantine.
They have now been defined by the government as “agreements between countries who both have low transmission rates to recognise each other’s departure screening measures for passengers”.
Almost every nation in the world has a lower transmission rate than the UK, but the presumption is that they would sign deals in order to encourage visitors from the UK.
The hope is that, by the time of the first official review date on 29 June, air bridge arrangements can be in place to justify lifting the obligation for arrivals from the most popular holiday destinations.
The airlines’ list includes all the key European summer locations, including Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Malta, Croatia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Greece and Cyprus, as well as Turkey.
Belgium, which has a high infection rate, is omitted – which is likely to anger Eurostar, which runs trains from Brussels to London.
Many Nordic and eastern European countries are on the list, but Iceland, Ukraine and Russia do not appear.
In North Africa, Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt would be exempt.
But African countries with strong ties with the UK, such as South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria, are excluded – as are nations dependent on tourism, including Kenya and Tanzania.
Ethiopia, whose capital Addis Ababa is the air hub for east Africa, is left out.
Relatively few locations in the Americas are included. The US, Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas and a scattering of Caribbean islands – Antigua, Barbados, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and St Lucia – are on the list. But Cuba, which has an outstanding health service and a very low rate of infection, does not appear.
The UAE, including Abu Dhabi and Dubai, is left off the list, along with Qatar, but Saudi Arabia appears. Israel is included, but Jordan is not.
Hong Kong is among the 45. But the remainder of China, as well as Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, are not.
Any traveller who is in a location left off the list would need only to travel to the UK via one of the countries on the list, or Ireland – which is already exempt.
Already wide loopholes have emerged. The Independent has demonstrated that more than two million people will be exempt because of their jobs, while the “Dublin dodge” presents an irresponsible but legal alternative to 14 days of self-isolation.
Separately, London City airport has announced it will re-open for domestic flights in late June, with international departures starting in July.
The Docklands airport closed in late March when lockdown began in the UK.
Passengers arriving in the UK by plane, ferry or train – including UK nationals – will have to provide an address where they will remain for 14 days. There is a £100 penalty for anyone found to have not filled in this ”contact locator” form.
Surprise visits will be used to check they are following the rules. Those in England could be fined up to £1,000 if they fail to self-isolate, while governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can also impose penalties.
Passengers will be asked to drive in their own car to their destination, where possible. If they do not provide an address, the government will arrange accommodation.
They must then not go to work, school, or public areas, or use public transport or taxis. They should also not have any visitors unless they are providing essential support, and should not go out to buy food or other essentials where they can rely on others.
Coronavirus: Quarantine will destroy travel firms, bosses warn
Tory MPs join aviation industry in backlash
By Graeme Paton, Transport Correspondent (The Times)
Andrew Ellson | Lucy Fisher
Monday June 01 2020
The quarantine about to be imposed on arrivals to Britain will “kill” the travel industry and have the same impact as the complete closure of the nation’s borders, ministers have been warned.
Aviation leaders urged the government yesterday to rethink the plan, saying it was the equivalent of hanging up a “Britain is closed” sign. They warned that it would damage the economic recovery at a crucial time and cost thousands of jobs in the travel, tourism and hospitality industries. They were joined in their opposition by tourism bodies and politicians.
From June 8, all travellers to Britain, including Britons returning home, will be forced to spend two weeks isolating at a single address even if they have come from countries with few coronavirus infections. Arrivals will have to reveal where they will be staying and anyone not complying faces a fine of up to £1,000.
Amid the backlash against the plan, research by the International Air Transport Association (Iata) showed that Britons were “relatively keen to travel again”.
It found that 48% of people in the UK would be willing to travel within a “month or two” of the threat posed by Covid-19 being controlled.
This was above the international average and higher than the US, Japan, Germany, Canada and Australia. However, Iata said that the quarantine would destroy any attempt to resume international travel into or from Britain.
Simon McNamara, of the trade group, said: “As the concern about Covid-19 recedes, if the quarantine is still in place people are not going to travel. It is not a question of being prepared to go through quarantine because they want to travel. All the evidence we have is that this will just kill travel. Governments seem to have a stark choice. They cannot pretend that quarantine enables their international travel markets to open up, because the evidence is quite simply not there. If they persist with quarantine it is effectively the same as locking down your country.”
In contrast Italy is rolling out the red carpet for foreign visitors to try to rebuild its economy. On Wednesday a rule requiring new arrivals to self-isolate for two weeks will be scrapped for visitors from Europe, including Britain.
Coronavirus: How safe is it to get on a plane?
By Theo Leggett & Tim Bowler (BBC News)
29 May 2020
Many airlines are planning to resume flying, but they first need to reduce the risks of Covid-19
One of the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic has been the massive reduction in air travel in recent months, with daily flights down some 80% since the start of the year.
Some airlines have grounded their entire fleets, while others have been focusing on cargo flights, in an effort to help keep supply chains functioning and make what money they can.
Now, however, many carriers are making plans to get back in the air.
Ryanair, for example, says it plans to reintroduce 40% of its schedule from July, EasyJet plans to resume some flights in mid-June, while Air France KLM and Lufthansa will begin flying very limited schedules by the end of June. Hungarian carrier Wizz Air has already resumed flights.
In the UK, the situation is complicated by the introduction of controversial quarantine rules on 8 June – which will force passengers to isolate themselves for two weeks after arriving in the country.
The Covid-19 coronavirus is still relatively new, so accurate data on how it can spread between aircraft passengers is in short supply. But previous studies have looked at the spread of other respiratory illnesses.
Based on the available information, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention generally tries to track down people sitting in the two rows in front and the two rows behind passengers found to have serious infections.
A 2018 study by researchers from Emory University in Atlanta attempted to model how passengers and crew moved about an aircraft, and how that might affect the transmission of infectious diseases.
“A droplet-mediated respiratory infectious disease is unlikely to be directly transmitted beyond one metre from the infectious passenger. Thus, transmission is limited to one row in front of or in back of an infectious passenger,” the researchers concluded.
Data on how the coronavirus can spread between aircraft passengers is in short supply
But contrary to this, earlier research – led by the same academics – had shown that in real life cases passengers with Sars or influenza actually appeared to have infected a number of people well outside their immediate area.
Their explanation was that some of those who became ill had become infected in the airport, while embarking or disembarking from the plane, or from touching contaminated surfaces, rather than by breathing in infected droplets.
The simulations also indicated that, because cabin crew moved around the aircraft and had numerous contacts with different passengers, they could generate several new infections, and concluded “it is imperative that flight attendants not fly when they are ill”.
Meanwhile, public health officials in Canada say they did not find any cases of further infection after two passengers on a flight from Guangzhou to Toronto were found to have Covid-19. The flight had 350 people on board, and lasted for 15 hours.
….. and it continues at length ….