AIR bridges to holiday hotspots are reportedly set to go ahead as the 14-day quarantine could be scrapped by the end of the month.
Special allowances for people coming into the UK for a holiday from low-risk countries are said to be on the way, The Times reports.
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It comes after the strict two-week quarantine plans were met with dismay from travel bosses and airports.
Calls have been made to water down the proposal to keep all tourists quarantined at a registered address for two weeks, with Home Secretary Priti Patel set to outline the plan later today.
Air bridges – set up after countries meet a five-point assessment – are said to be under consideration by the Government, but not part of the policy yet.
Yesterday, sources told The Times the plan is likely to be brought in as soon as possible, possibly at the first review date of the quarantine – June 29.
They said the Government is taking the prospect of air bridges “very seriously; as things stand they will happen, likely on 29 June,” after MPs and tourism bosses have called for a row back on the quarantine.
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.”
Current plans mean all international arrivals – apart from people carrying out a limited number of specified roles – would need to quarantine for 14 days from Monday.
SUMMER HOLIDAY HOPE?
The plan has been fiercely criticised by travel and hospitality businesses, and ministers are understood to be considering introducing air bridges when the policy is reviewed three weeks after it comes into force.
Agreements would need to be reached with other countries before any policy could be introduced. The Telegraph reported Prime Minister Boris Johnson is “personally in favour” of the idea.
Further details of the quarantine proposal are expected to be laid before Parliament on Tuesday.
The Guardian reported that quarantined travellers would be able to stay in multiple homes, go food shopping, change accommodation and use public transport from airports.
But a Government source said people would be expected to stay in one home, use private transport and only venture outside where absolutely necessary.
However as resistance to the entire idea grows, there are reports the groups of people exempt from quarantine is set to be expanded and air bridges announced soon to placate unimpressed MPs.
Adding to summer holiday hopes, Portugal has said it was ready to welcome back Brits within days because it reportedly believes the UK has coronavirus “under control”.
Officials in Lisbon want quarantine-free travel between the two countries to restart from as early as this Saturday which could kick start its lucrative tourism industry which has been shut for weeks.
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.
It comes after Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned if infection rates rose again more serious lockdown measures would be brought back: “We are attempting to move the system from these national, blanket measures to a more targeted approach.
“This is why test and trace is such an important part of that.
“But we have always said that we are prepared to reintroduce measures – whether that is nationally or in response to a localised outbreak – if that is necessary.”
The government has previously said that, once systems to monitor new cases around the country are in place, regional lockdowns could be imposed to address localised outbreaks.
Yesterday saw Brits flocking to beaches around the country to make the most of temperature highs of 26C.
Warm weather in recent weeks has led to concerns about increased levels of social contact and a possible second spike in infections.
Also speaking at today’s briefing, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jenny Harries said: “This is a really, really critical time.”
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Coronavirus deaths in the UK have risen to 39,045 after 111 new fatalities were recorded in the last 24 hours.
The total daily increase of fatalities was actually 556 up on Sunday after 445 earlier deaths in England were also now attributed to the killer bug.
These additional deaths are linked to cases that have been identified through testing that has been carried out by commercial partners, rather than testing that has been done in NHS and Public Health England laboratories.
A total of 276,332 people have now tested positive for Covid-19 across Britain.