Families’ hopes of a summer getaway were dealt a blow last night as Downing Street played down the idea of opening ‘air bridges’ to some foreign resorts.
The prospect of quarantine-free travel between the UK and countries with low coronavirus rates had been raised by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
But with ministers expected to unveil plans tomorrow for a tough new quarantine regime requiring travellers to self-isolate for 14 days after arriving in the UK, No 10 said the ‘air bridges’ idea would not form part of the proposals.
It would have seen the 14-day rule relaxed for certain countries – and France and Greece had both expressed an interest in the idea.
A drone captures people flooding onto a beach in Potamos, Epanomi, Greece, this weekend as public spaces begin to open across the country. The scenes comes as Downing Street played down the idea of opening ‘air bridges’ to some foreign resorts
In Paris, France, sun-seekers take to the streets and walk across the River Seine as the government begins to ease its lockdown restrictions
Passengers wear personal protective equipment after landing at Terminal Two of London Heathrow Airport in London
Earlier this week, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps raised hopes that some foreign holidays could be salvaged however the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said it was ‘an option under consideration but not agreed Government policy’
Families take to the water and sunbathe at a Lido in London as the UK begins to edge out of the coronavirus lockdown
Blanket quarantine measures now appear likely to be introduced towards the end of the month, despite warnings they will wreck the holiday plans of Britons and damage the UK tourism industry.
Pressure for October Bank Holiday
Tourism bosses are pleading with ministers to announce an October Bank Holiday to help rescue the industry from a £37billion black hole.
The extra national holiday would coincide with the autumn half term and encourage trips to the countryside and coast.
Visit Britain claims total losses from domestic tourism are likely to be around £22billion this year.
And the lack of foreign visitors will cut income by another £15billion – and even more if the Government imposes a 14-day quarantine on them.
Acting chief executive Patricia Yates told the Commons culture select committee: ‘Every time we do the [financial] modelling the figures get worse.’
She said the normal summer season should be extended through to October ‘because the industry lost the benefit of the two May Bank Holidays’.
It comes as the director of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, Bernard Donoghue, told MPs that the proposed 14-day quarantine for arriving foreign holidaymakers would be disastrous for sites such as the Royal Albert Hall and other ‘crown jewels’ of the industry.
Visit Britain boss Patricia Yates yesterday predicted the economy would lose £15billion from inbound tourism this year.
Mr Shapps raised hopes that some foreign holidays could be salvaged on Monday when he told MPs he was investigating the possibility of allowing quarantine-free ‘air bridges’ to countries with low levels of infection.
But yesterday the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘It’s an option under consideration but not agreed Government policy.’
A Whitehall source said: ‘The quarantine rules will be reviewed every three weeks but I think people would be unwise to book a foreign holiday in the expectation that an ‘air bridge’ will open up in time for the summer holidays.
‘It’s the sort of idea you might look at as you exit a quarantine system. But we are just getting started.’
Ministers are still finalising the details of the quarantine regime, but it is expected to include fines of at least £1,000 for those breaching the 14 days of self-isolation.
A minister involved in the talks said all arrivals would be stopped by Border Force agents and told to download the Government’s new coronavirus tracking app.
They will be asked to provide their address or details of where they are staying, and police or local authority officials will carry out spot checks to ensure the quarantine is not being breached.
Sources said there would be ‘very few’ exemptions.
Critics have questioned why the Government is tightening the rules at a time when some EU countries are easing travel restrictions and when many airlines have resumed UK flights.
Greek tourism minister Haris Theoharis had called on the Government to agree a no-quarantine pact with his country.
He told the BBC: ‘We feel that this is a time for us to start lifting restrictions and we urge other countries, the UK included, that as soon as we do that we would welcome reciprocity.’
As temperatures began to rise across the UK, Clarice Hui (left) took to London Fields Park in east London with her Corgi while Summer Wallace (right) walked along the seafront in Brighton with her mask
A group of revellers play with a football on Donnant beach in France as the country’s beaches gradually begin to reopen
Greece’s beaches, including this one at Epanomi , near Thessaloniki, on Saturday, are thriving thanks to a low number of coronavirus cases
Spanish beaches could limit tourists to four hours a day this Summer
In a bid to prevent overcrowding on Costa Del Sol beaches, regional Spanish governments are being urged to enforce a time limit on how long tourists can stay in one sitting.
The suggestions include four hour time limits for beach-goers, either in the morning or in the afternoon, and to encourage sunbathers to shower before their leave their homes or hotels for the beach, and once again when they arrive.
Parents have also been warned not to let their young children leave buckets, spades and other toys unattended on the beach, and free for anyone else to pick up.
The recommendations were published yesterday by the regional Junta de Andalucia government in a state bulletin.
‘I think we’ll have to get used to going to beaches in a different way to that we’ve been enjoying up to now,’ its vice-president Juan Marin admitted on Spanish TV after the recommendations had been made public.
It is expected that many of the Costa del Sol’s beaches will be re-opened fully next Monday, although the region was a week late entering phase one of a four-stage coronavirus recovery programme, when compared with other regions.
Individual town halls will be left to the task of ensuring that social distancing rules are observed by beach-goers, with a variety of different methods set to be used.
Fuengirola, a popular holiday resort, has said that it is the first to choose artificial intelligence to keep crowds down by installing sensors on lampposts that will monitor how many people are on the beach and inform tourists using a smartphone app which areas are busiest.
Other beaches have proposed the use of ‘beach squares’, in which beach-goers would each have their own roped off zone to keep people at a safe distance from one-another.
Spain has seen over 232,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with more than 27,000 related deaths.
Beachgoers enjoy the sun at a public beach in Piraeus near Athens, Greece, on May 18, after weeks of lockdown in the country
Aerial view from a drone of people at the overcrowded beach of Potamos in Epanomi, Greece, during a heatwave, a beach near Thessaloniki and Halkidiki
With the Mediterranean nation’s under-pressure economy heavily dependent on holidaymakers it has been making plans to refill deserted beaches and hotels in popular tourist areas like Corfu (pictured)
What is an air bridge?
An ‘air bridge’ is typically used by the military to reach and supply territory across enemy lines.
One of the largest in history was used for the Berlin airlift after the Second World War.
That kept the Western-held area supplied between June 1948 and May 1949 when it was cut off by Soviet forces.
Another famous air bridge was ‘The Hump’, which was the route over the Himalayas from India to resupply Chinese forces working with the Allies.
The Greek islands, visited by three million Britons a year, have been in lockdown since March but hotels are due to open there on July 1.
The country has escaped the worst of the pandemic, with just 165 deaths, and is desperate to welcome tourists back.
Ministers consider quarantine to be a vital part of efforts to prevent a second wave of coronavirus.
But airline bosses fear it will devastate the crippled travel industry. British Airways wanted to restore large-scale operations in July, but this now looks unlikely.
Virgin Atlantic have also indicated that flights will be pushed back to August ‘at the earliest’.
There are also concerns for the 20,000 British nationals still stranded abroad.
It is likely many will have to go into quarantine after returning as the rule could come into force as early as May 28.
Latest coronavirus video news, views and expert advice at mailplus.co.uk/coronavirus
Here are how some of UK tourists’ favourite holiday and travel destinations compare in terms of coronavirus cases
UK tourism firms facing £37billion coronavirus hit
UK tourism businesses could lose up to £15billion this year because of the coronavirus shutdown, an industry boss told MPs today.
Patricia Yates, acting chief executive at Visit Britain, said huge sums were likely to be lost both from international and domestic holidaymakers.
She told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee: ‘Every time we do the modelling the figures get worse. So for inbound, I mean we were looking at the beginning of this year at about £26.6 billion coming from inbound tourism, we reckon a £15 billion drop on that.
‘And for domestic, an industry that’s normally worth about £80 billion, a £22 billion drop on that.
‘And that’s actually before we’ve factored in the quarantine because we don’t clearly quite know what the measures are going to look like.’
She said while it would be the hope that domestic tourism this summer could pick up the slack and help alleviate some of the losses from the international sector, a ‘lack of confidence’ among people around travelling is a concern.
She said: ‘You’ve got a collapse of the supply industry as well as collapse of demand and really to get British tourism up and running this summer, and the summer is hugely important, you’re going to need that domestic audience. I think the worrying thing we see is the lack of confidence in the British public about travelling.’
She added: ‘So there’s a real job to be done there, given that it has to be the year of domestic tourism, there’s a real job to be done there in convincing people that it’s socially responsible to travel and enjoy a holiday. And that it’s safe to do so.’