Brits can travel to France, Italy and Spain on holiday next week with first air bridges revealed
BRITS will be able to get jet off to safe holiday spots next week as the government announces the first set of ‘air bridges’ to destinations.
The Sun can reveal the roadmap of global destinations set to be unveiled as safe over the coming weeks and months.
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A series of “intensive phone calls” are still taking place to finalise the bilateral deals, which will start next week when a series of European holiday destinations, including France, Italy and Spain are declared safe by the Foreign Office.
Today Transport Secretary Grant Shapps revealed ‘air bridges’ will only be agreed with countries which have a coronavirus test and trace system at the same standard as the UK as well a low rate of the virus.
The safe travel corridors will be set up after the quarantine review on June 29 and the Foreign Office will change their travel advice from “against all but essential international travel” to allow travel to these safe nations.
France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria, Greece, Belgium, Netherlands, Gibraltar, Bermuda, and possibly Portugal will all be announced in the first batch of ‘safe nations.’
There will also be a “slow trickle” of updated destinations from then, with medium haul destinations, like Turkey and Dubai added towards August.
Long haul flights will be back on the cards from mid to late summer, with trips to Vietnam, Singapore, and Hong Kong given the ok.
Officials are also working on an ambitious plan to allow travel from Australia without having to quarantine providing flights have not been in transit in high risk countries.
But the USA, Mexico and South American countries are set to be off limits until the end of the year.
Paul Charles from pressure group Quash Quarantine has been given assurances from the government over the timetable, subject to no further massive covid outbreaks.
Sunbathers in allocated square on the beach in Benidorm[/caption]
Spain is among the first batch of ‘safe nations’[/caption]
Safe travel corridors will be set up after June 29 for destinations including popular Benidorm in Spain[/caption]
He told The Sun: “I am expecting an announcement by the end of the week.
“The work is still taking place on finalising the travel corridors, and I am aware of a lot of intensive phone taking place among people across Europe.
“Although Portugal has had a question mark over it because of the recent outbreak, it will make it in the end.
“The first phase will be Europe, and the second phase from August will be more long haul, with the Caribbean, Dubai and Morocco included.”
However those hoping for a trip to the USA or Mexico as well as countries in South America are likely to be subject to quarantine measures for some time to come.
He added: “South America, and Latin America will likely be exempt from the end of the year.
“There is no way restrictions will be lifted there any time soon as they are at the epicentre of the pandemic at the moment.
“And it is unlikely that America will open up before the November election, partly because President Trump won’t open it up, but also because the number of cases there is very high.
“America does not meet the Chris Whitty criteria of being a safe country, bit something like three million Brits visit the USA every year and they won’t be doing that.”
Downing Street are said to be keen to ditch the policy without being accused of conducting a U-turn.
Instead the measures will “trickle away” over the summer.
Mr Charles added: “I am relieved that Downing Street is now understanding the pain that quarantine has caused to the travel sector and we are looking forward to the further announcements.”
The airlines group, Airlines UK which represents major British based airlines welcomed the news.
A spokesman said: “It’s welcome news and clearly a lot better than a blanket quarantine.
“It will enable families to get away this summer and airlines will respond to this demand by putting on more capacity.
“We still need to see the full removal of quarantine though as every day it is in place the UK economy takes a further hit, and there are other ways of achieving the same aim such as passenger testing and adherence to the already published aviation health guidance.
“The economic recovery will not begin in earnest if countries we export to and do business with are not on the list, so there is still a long way to go, but it’s welcome progress.”
Speaking at the Transport Select Committee yesterday Mr Shapps said he would be speaking about the corridors “on or by the 29th” of June.
Asked what the “key considerations” are in the negotiations, Mr Shapps said the ability of a country to alert people if they have been in contact with a person who has coronavirus is one of the factors.
Outlining the questions being asked by UK officials, he said: “Do they have something equivalent to our NHS Test and Trace system? The Test and Trace system is enormous here now. We’ve got the capacity to test far more than is immediately required but that would allow for any uplift anywhere.
“Does the country we’re talking to have that kind of capability?”
He said another issue being considered is the level and trajectory of the disease in a destination.
Mr Shapps added that introducing air bridges is a “massive priority”, stating: “I understand entirely the pain that aviation is going through. I know both for airports, for airlines and actually for ground handlers as well, this coronavirus has been a complete disaster.
“The only thing which will be worse is if the country does not continue the work it’s doing on getting on top of it.
“That’s why quarantine has been introduced at a point where we were getting on top of it.”
Since June 8, all passengers – bar a handful of exemptions – have been required to go into self-isolation for 14 days when they arrive in the UK.
People who fail to comply can be fined £1,000 in England, and police are allowed to use “reasonable force” to make sure they follow the rules.
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Labour’s Shadow Transport Minister Jim McMahon called for a published plan to get the aviation industry moving again.
In a letter to Mr Shapps he said: “As we move forward ‘air bridges/corridor/bubbles’ is the right starting point, but it cannot be the only intervention. While it is logical that countries with lower infection reproduction rates present lower risk., it is a fact that countries do not carry the virus; individuals do.
“It is vital therefore that in the published plan, the approach is multi-layered. This could include implementing measures such as pre-flight screening, temperature scanning in airports, isolation zones, the use for protective equipment, a rapid test on arrival into the UK and a robust contact tracing scheme.”
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