Downing Street has poured cold water on hopes of an ‘air bridge’ to allow British holiday-makers to avoid quarantine on returning from popular European destinations this summer.

In a slapdown for transport secretary Grant Shapps, the prime minister’s official spokesman said the idea was not government policy.

The government is due to announce shortly a 14-day quarantine for anyone arriving in the UK from overseas, with the threat of fines between £1,000 and £10,000 for anyone failing to remain at their designated self-isolation address for the entire period.

Sharing the full story, not just the headlines

But Mr Shapps raised hopes that Britons would still be able to enjoy a summer getaway abroad by telling the House of Commons on Monday that bilateral “air bridge” agreements might allow passengers from countries with low levels of coronavirus infections to skip quarantine.

At a virtual Westminster media briefing today, Boris Johnson’s spokesman said the idea – which is backed by Heathrow – was “an option under consideration but not agreed government policy”.

The spokesman said Mr Shapps’ comments “speak for themselves”, but added: “The prime minister has said those arriving in the UK from overseas will be required to self-isolate.”

Details of the quarantine scheme, expected to come into force next month, will be published “in due course”, said the spokesman.

Travellers from the Republic of Ireland are expected to be exempted from the scheme, along with truckers bringing freight from France by ferry and Channel Tunnel and scientists and medics involved in the battle against coronavirus.

But No 10 said it was “not aware” of any discussions with Athens about a reciprocal arrangement with Greece to allow Brits to take holidays there without quarantine.

Greek tourism minister Haris Theoharis told the BBC’s Coronavirus Newscast: “If we don’t impose quarantine for people coming to Greece from the UK from someday onward, we would welcome it if the UK extended the same thing.”

The latest news on Brexit, politics and beyond direct to your inbox

Register with your social account or click here to log in

Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye has warned that air travel will remain at low levels as long as the quarantine remains in place and called for a “free flow of passengers” between countries with low risk of transmission.

And Mr Shapps appeared to back the argument in the Commons on Monday, telling MPs: “It is the case that we should indeed consider further improvements, for example things like air bridges enabling people from other countries who have themselves achieved lower levels of coronavirus infection to come to the country.

“So those are active discussions that will go beyond what will initially be a blanket situation.”

British Airways has said that it will not increase flights while self-isolation requirements are in place for arrivals, and Virgin Atlantic has said it would take a similar stance.

Michael O’Leary, chief executive of the budget airline Ryanair, said that the policy was “idiotic” and could not be policed, claiming that many people would refuse to follow the lockdown rules.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like

Election live updates: Obama hitting campaign trail for Biden; Trump returning to North Carolina

The Washington Post is providing live election updates free to all readers. Get more election news delivered to your inbox by signing up for The Trailer newsletter. Former president Barack Obama is hitting the campaign trail Wednesday, with plans to…

Biden’s claim that Trump is ‘pushing to slash Medicare benefits’

“Donald Trump is lying about Medicare and Social Security. Trump is pushing to slash Medicare benefits.” — Voice-over in new Joe Biden campaign ad, released Oct. 9, 2020 We were a little surprised when we first saw this ad as…

23,000 absentee ballots were rejected in Wisconsin’s April primaries

This spring, one of the most scrutinized swing states in the country got a taste of what elections look like when an overwhelming majority of voters are afraid to physically head to the polls. In addition to the long lines…

Labour will face its credibility test when the coronavirus crisis is over

It was an ordinary October morning in 2001 and Gordon Brown was shouting at Ed Balls. The chancellor was furious with his adviser for telling journalists that the government would take “whatever action is necessary” to fund the health service.…