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Criticism of travel plan

Quarantine easing on agenda as holiday hopes rise

Travellers will face quarantine on arrival at airports (pic: Terry Murden)

Calls are growing to relax the quarantine rules just days before they are due to be introduced for thousands of travellers arriving in the UK.

Pressure is mounting to introduce “air bridges” that will allow travel between “low contagion” countries.

Under current plans passengers will have to self-isolate for 14 days from 8 June to prevent a second wave of coronavirus.

But they will be allowed to go food shopping and use public transport from airports, prompting criticism that it will not work.

A fifth of people are expected to receive a spot-check to ensure that they are staying at the address or addresses they have provided to the authorities, but enforcement of the quarantine will be limited.

The rules will come into effect next week but have prompted cross-party concerns they will have limited impact on public health while potentially causing severe damage to the travel and aviation industry.

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Home Secretary Priti Patel announced on 22 May that nearly all international arrivals at UK ports, including airports, ferry ports and international rail terminals, must quarantine for 14 days from next Monday. The plan is due to be reviewed every three weeks.

There are exemptions for health workers, scientists, lorry drivers and others. Also exempt will be people coming from the Irish Republic, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

Fines of £1,000 will be imposed on those who do not comply.

Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister, yesterday said that the arrangements in Scotland, including penalties for non-compliance, were still being discussed.

The UK government has said that leaving quarantine for trips to the shops or or changing address would only be allowed only if there was no alternative.

Other countries, such as Greece, ordered travellers to remain at designate quarantine hotels, with food left outside their door.

Sir David King, the former government chief scientific adviser, said that in other parts of Europe, and in south-east Asia, the quarantine process has been “much more rigorous” than the UK’s proposals.

“There’s a particular worry I have, that is too much discretion is being left to the individual,” he said.

Daily Business report earlier this month on air bridges idea

Tory MP Henry Smith, and the Labour MP Ben Bradshaw have been critical of blanket quarantine rules.

Last month, the bosses of airlines including EasyJet, Tui, Jet2 and Virgin Atlantic also said they had “serious reservations” about imposing the quarantine on all arrivals into Britain. Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary described the quarantine plan as “idiotic” and “unimplementable”.

The travel and tourism industry has called for so-called “air bridges”, allowing for uninterrupted travel with those countries with low Covid-19 infection rates.

More than 200 business leaders have called on the government to scrap the policy, saying it was “deeply worrying for our economy and our country”.

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Britons will be able to fly to Greece this summer after officials reversed a decision to blacklist the UK due to its high rates of coronavirus infection. 

“It will now depend on airport of origin, not country (of origin),” a government official told AFP.   

Last week, while citizens of 29 other countries were approved to travel, the UK was initially blacklisted from flying to Greece owing to its high number of coronavirus cases. 

The list published Friday approved tourists from countries including Australia, Croatia, Serbia, Romania and Lebanon. 

Greek authorities changed their stance over the weekend, allowing people from high-risk countries to travel but with mandatory quarantine measures on arrival. 

Britain has 13 high-risk airports including Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted. But Edinburgh, which before the pandemic had direct flights to Greece, is not on the danger list.

Authorities said they will conduct tests on visitors arriving from airports deemed high-risk by the European Union’s aviation safety agency (EASA) when it opens its airports to tourism traffic on 15 June.   

Gatwick airport

Gatwick: designed ‘high-risk’

If you originate from an airport on the EASA affected area list, then you will be tested upon arrival,’ the ministry of foreign affairs said in an announcement, adding that movement restrictions will also apply.

If the test is negative, then the passenger self-quarantines for 7 days. If the test is positive, the passenger is quarantined under supervision for 14 days. 

The extension and testing rules also apply to France, Spain and Italy. 

From June 15 to 30, flights will only be allowed into Athens and Thessaloniki. Other regional and island airports will open on 1 July.

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