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Holiday air-bridge lift-off: France, Spain and Italy are on list of quarantine-free destinations

Air bridges allowing tourists to travel to France, Italy, Spain, Germany and other countries were confirmed late last night.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office will today set out exemptions from a number of countries from its ‘all but essential’ travel guidance from July 4.

However the measures exempting travellers from quarantine will not be in force until July 10.

The majority of passengers will still have to provide contact details when they arrive in England.

Those who have been through countries still on the quarantine list in the past 14 days will still have to self-isolate for two weeks.

The changes will be announced by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps today following a risk assessment by the Joint Biosecurity Centre, in close consultation with Public Health England and the Chief Medical Officer.

Speaking today, Mr Shapps said travellers to England from around 60 countries and overseas territories will no longer have to quarantine when they arrive in the UK. 

The government is expected to announce a list of countries that will form part of the quarantine-free air bridge to restart the tourism industry

The Transport Secretary said the Government will be publishing a full list of countries that will be exempt later today.

‘There will be a list of 50-plus countries. If you add in the overseas territories (there will be) 60-something-or-other that will be announced later today,’ he told Sky News.

Likely list of air bridge countries 

  • Andorra 
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belgium
  • Bermuda
  • Brunei
  • Canada
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • French Polynesia
  • Germany
  • Gibraltar
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malaysia
  • Malta
  • Martinique
  • Monaco
  • Montenegro
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • NZ
  • Poland
  • Reunion
  • San Marino
  • Serbia
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Pierre and Miquelon
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Turkey
  • Vietnam
  • Wallis and Futuna

Source: The Daily Telegraph   

‘France, Germany, Italy and Spain will be on that list. It is really important that we have done this in a very careful and cautious way. The most important thing is to maintain the gains that we have had.’

However, the Government said it ‘expects’ that countries on the list will reciprocate, but provided no guarantee of this.

The list will be published today and will be kept under review in case of spikes of the disease in other countries.

The FCO has updated its travel advice so that certain destinations that pose a low risk are no longer on its list banning ‘all but essential travel’ to them.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: ‘Today marks the next step in carefully reopening our great nation. Whether you are a holidaymaker ready to travel abroad or a business eager to open your doors again, this is good news for British people and great news for British businesses.

‘The entire nation has worked tirelessly to get to this stage, therefore safety must remain our watch word and we will not hesitate to move quickly to protect ourselves if infection rates rise in countries we are reconnecting with.’

The late announcement came after a day of shambles, the list of nations to which travel will be allowed from Monday without Britons having to quarantine here on their return was repeatedly chopped and changed.

Greece is thought to have fallen off it last night despite previous pledges it would be included.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland also refused to sign up to the plan, meaning the lifting of quarantine measures will apply only to English ports and airports.

The decision to press ahead without the rest of the UK raises the prospect that Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon could follow through on her threat to impose quarantines on people arriving from England.

And last night it emerged that just three people have been fined since the controversial quarantine policy – blamed for crippling hopes of a tourism revival – was brought in last month.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Sky News today (above) travellers to England from around 60 countries and overseas territories will no longer have to quarantine upon arrival

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Sky News today (above) travellers to England from around 60 countries and overseas territories will no longer have to quarantine upon arrival

Ministers agreed a new ‘traffic light’ system last week that would pave the way for the creation of so-called ‘international travel corridors’ designed to allow travellers to visit certain countries this summer without the need to quarantine at either end.

Ministers had originally planned to negotiate bilateral ‘air bridges’ with a limited number of countries. Under pressure from the travel industry and fears of legal action, this was then widened to a larger group of almost 80 destinations.

At one point yesterday, ministers were ready to lift quarantine against countries deemed safe even if they were imposing quarantine on UK arrivals.

But amid frantic wrangling, they decided this would be politically untenable. The chaos sparked a blame game between London and Edinburgh, with Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg accusing Miss Sturgeon of acting like Donald Trump wanting to ‘build a wall’ after she refused to rule out 14-day quarantines on arrivals from England.

Ministers have spent days trying to agree a UK-wide approach. Privately they accuse Miss Sturgeon of playing politics with the issue in order to fuel nationalist sentiment north of the border.

A passenger wearing a face mask arrives to to board Ryanair flight FR2190 to Malaga at London Southend Airport in Essex on Wednesday

A passenger wearing a face mask arrives to to board Ryanair flight FR2190 to Malaga at London Southend Airport in Essex on Wednesday

But a Scottish government source said ministers at Westminster had changed the policy three times in 24 hours, making it impossible for them to sign up. Scotland’s justice secretary Humza Yousaf said the number of countries proposed by the UK Government had jumped from 42 to 73 during Wednesday.

He said the original list had 15 countries with a ‘green’ risk rating and 27 with an ‘amber’ rating – but 30 minutes before the 6pm meeting they were shown a list of 40 green and 33 amber nations.

The row came as travel agents started abandoning plans to sell holidays this summer due to the uncertainty around air bridges.

Lee Hunt, 42, owner of Deben Travel in Woodbridge, Suffolk, said: ‘If customers are paying, we need to guarantee them they are getting everything they pay for. We can’t do this at the moment.’

Chris Scoble, 54, of Go Scoble in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, said: ‘I think we have been put right at the back of the queue, despite being such a large part of this country’s economy.’

Holidaymakers return to Portals Nous in Mallorca yesterday as Spain starts to return to normal

Holidaymakers return to Portals Nous in Mallorca yesterday as Spain starts to return to normal

Responding to the Government’s decision to lift quarantine restrictions in England, a spokesman for travel trade organisation Abta said: ‘The Government announcement today that lifts quarantine restrictions for returning passengers from 10 July in England will be greeted with huge relief by the travel industry, which can now plan ahead and take summer holiday bookings.

‘Travel businesses have been under enormous pressure since the start of the pandemic, and the industry can now start to meet customers’ pent-up appetite for travel.

‘Getting the balance of health risk and economic risk is a difficult challenge, and we strongly support the Government in taking this initiative.

‘There will be some changes to people’s travel experiences because of the health and safety measures in place to limit Covid-19, and it will be important going forward that customers speak to their travel provider so that they can book and travel with confidence.

‘And, of course, continued access to overseas destinations depends on our keeping Covid infection and transmission rates low in this country, so everyone should continue to heed public health guidelines.’

Nicola Sturgeon’s foot-dragging on air bridges leaving millions in holiday limbo has been a cynical ploy – she’s using Covid to try and split the Union, says STEPHEN DAISLEY

Every night at tea time, Scots switch on the TV news to a familiar sight: Nicola Sturgeon peering at them from behind her podium, giving the latest coronavirus figures and sharing her sympathy with those affected.

She is a deft communicator and peerless emoter who has convinced herself that Scotland could not get through the remainder of this crisis without her televised beneficence.

So we gather each evening to learn which of her vast array of powers the First Minister will call upon next. How far can we travel? When can our churches reopen? Where must we wear surgical masks now?

The SNP leader makes all these decisions without reference to Boris Johnson because, in Scotland, devolution takes vast swathes of the Prime Minister’s powers and hands them to the occupant of Bute House, the official residence of the First Minister.

And Sturgeon revels in flexing her authority, as her refusal this week to sign up to an agreement over air bridges showed us once again.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wears a Tartan face mask as she visits New Look at Ford Kinaird Retail Park in Edinburgh

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wears a Tartan face mask as she visits New Look at Ford Kinaird Retail Park in Edinburgh

Downing Street was expected to publish a list on Monday of countries which will no longer be subject to the 14-day self-isolation rules but, thanks to Ms Sturgeon’s grand-standing, the decision has repeatedly been pushed back, causing holiday chaos and stoking growing anger among businesses, such as travel companies and airlines, that have been so hard hit by Covid.

Scotland’s First Minister insists she just wants to ‘take a bit of time to consider the public health impact’ of what is being proposed.

What planet is she on? As agreements on air bridges with other countries have to be made on a UK-wide basis, by refusing to step into line with Downing Street she is throwing the holiday plans of millions of families into chaos

It is an outrageous display of playing politics with the pandemic: holding the UK to ransom to drum up support for her dream of independence.

In response to such accusations, Ms Sturgeon primly says that the very suggestion that political considerations might be a factor in her decision-making are ‘frankly disgraceful’. From the high priestess of politicisation, this is spectacular audacity.

She is even considering quarantining visitors to Scotland from south of the border. Boris Johnson’s assertion in response that ‘there is no such thing as a border between England and Scotland’ was a silly, unforced error. 

There is a legal boundary, with separate systems of law and law-making, but the nationalist leader’s thundering indignation was theatre — and bad theatre, at that.

‘If the Prime Minister is questioning that now,’ she snipped in rejoinder, ‘I’m not sure what he’d say if I pitched up in Newcastle and tried to implement Scottish Government policies there.’

The truth is that the idea of Sturgeon crossing the Tweed into England and finding herself locked in quarantine on her return would find favour with half of Scotland.

But frivolities aside, the mere suggestion that the Scottish Government even contemplates the idea of a quarantine is quite extraordinary. A Scottish quarantine would effectively suspend free movement between the two largest nations of the United Kingdom.

Passengers arrive to Palma de Mallorca airport, Spain amid the coronavirus crisis today

Passengers arrive to Palma de Mallorca airport, Spain amid the coronavirus crisis today

Scotland would be erecting a hard border in the middle of a national emergency and in the run-up to a Scottish Parliament election in which SNP demands for another referendum are certain to take centre stage.

The political symbolism of the act would overshadow any pretext of protecting public health.

Nicola Sturgeon is not naive. She knows all this. Yet she refuses to reject the idea, even though it would sharply divide Scots, trigger a territorial row between Bute House and Downing Street, and do lasting damage to Scotland’s vital tourism industry.

Indeed, the Scottish Tourism Alliance warns that holidaymakers from elsewhere in the UK have already begun asking about refunds on bookings.

Meanwhile, it is not clear how such quarantine measures would work in practice. This week Police Scotland said it does not even monitor who is entering the country.

Holiday makers sunbathe on Portals Nous beach today as lockdown restriction ease in Europe

Holiday makers sunbathe on Portals Nous beach today as lockdown restriction ease in Europe

The coronavirus outbreak called for leadership and, at first, Sturgeon appeared to grasp the gravity of the moment.

She acted with caution and spoke sombrely, holding to a four-nations strategy even as the very notion that Scotland should co-ordinate its response with the rest of the UK antagonised some in the grassroots of her party.

But, soon enough, political considerations got the better of her — as they so often do with this First Minister. When she was taken into the fold via Cobra meetings, she angered No 10 by pre-empting the Prime Minister’s announcement of a policy shift from containment to delay of the virus.

When Downing Street unveiled its ‘Stay Alert’ slogan, she refused to use it because it was ‘vague and imprecise’. The following month, she announced a motto of her own: ‘Stay Safe’.

There is an eye-poking quality to SNP’s approach to Middle England, a compulsive need to emphasise small divergences and cast Scotland and England as naturally separate countries.

Passengers wave as they walk along a gangway as an airplane boards from Germany to Greece

Passengers wave as they walk along a gangway as an airplane boards from Germany to Greece

Yet, when it comes to efforts to control the virus, the SNP’s record is as at least as patchy as that of the Tories in England.

Both governments were sluggish in providing PPE, and both took too long to appreciate the importance of testing and tracing. On testing in particular, the Scottish Government’s record has been risible. At one point, only one-third of daily capacity was put to use.

Passengers could face swab tests at Heathrow and other airports, says Transport Secretary

An announcement on coronavirus swab tests for air passengers could be made within weeks, the Transport Secretary said yesterday.

Grant Shapps said he is speaking to airport handling firm Swissport, who are preparing a trial of a scheme which will involve travellers receiving a swab test after passing through immigration and customs.

The tests are similar to those issued by the NHS and can provide results in as little as seven hours.

Holiday air-bridge lift-off: France, Spain and Italy are on list of quarantine-free destinations

 

Passengers with positive swabs would be asked to contact the test-and-trace service and complete two weeks of self-isolation.

Asked about airport testing for passengers in the Commons yesterday, Mr Shapps said: ‘It’s very important to ensure we can provide reassurance for passengers but also do something useful with the screening beyond perhaps just what asking people to take a temperature check provides.

‘And so we are actively working with Heathrow and other airports to put exactly those types of schemes in place and I will be saying more about those in time for the following review of air corridors.’

The Swissport trials are due to take place at an airport which has yet to be named.

Asked about the scheme, Mr Shapps said: ‘I am indeed in touch with Swissport and following those trials and proposals very closely indeed and as I indicated in a question or two back we do believe it is important to provide international standards and that may well include specific types of testing.’

Sturgeon’s Health Minister, Jeane Freeman, has also come under fire over the decision to transfer elderly patients from hospitals to care homes, some of them being moved without first being tested for coronavirus.

Back in May, Freeman told the Scottish Parliament only 300 older people had been discharged before compulsory testing was introduced. The actual figure was three times as high.

Sturgeon defended her staunch political ally, saying she might have been ‘tired’ when she gave the misleading number.

But no dereliction of duty has been quite as appalling as the Scottish Government’s handling of the Nike conference outbreak.

The sports giant held an international gathering in an Edinburgh hotel at the end of February.

By March 3, ministers knew at least two people connected to the event had tested positive for Covid-19, but the outbreak was kept secret from the public for another 69 days — when a BBC investigation revealed all. Sturgeon’s Government had slipped back into old habits of secrecy and subterfuge.

So far none of this is registering any political impact. With a Holyrood election scheduled for next May, Sturgeon is polling far ahead of the Scottish Conservatives, who have still not recovered from the loss of their former leader Ruth Davidson.

By rights, she could focus on her day job of running the country and coast to another term in Bute House, but that is not Sturgeon’s way. She is a fierce ideological animal, wily and lethal, and she lives for the hunt.

This makes her a deadly enemy to her opponents, but it renders her fundamentally ill-suited to governing. The temptation to politicise everything is ever-present because, for Sturgeon, politics is all there is.

Viruses come and go but the nationalist cause endures and, as long as it does, it will always be Nicola Sturgeon’s top priority.

She is leader of the SNP first, and First Minister of Scotland a distant second.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk