Coronavirus: Air bridges could be set up by next month as foreign holiday bookings surge

Policy could see return to unimpeded travel to European nations within days

No news on easing international travel measures before June 29 says Shapps

The government is set to announce an initial list of nations the UK will have air bridge agreements with, it has been reported, allowing travellers to salvage their summer break from the restrictions implemented by international lockdown measures.

Air bridges — an agreement between two nations to allow travel into and out of the nation without the need for a 14-day quarantine — have been touted as a way to save both the tourism sector and the nation’s hope of foreign travel in a post-lockdown world

Now, such measures are expected to be introduced as part of a three-stage process, starting with agreements between the UK and a number of European nations including France, Italy, Spain, Greece and Germany, according to The Daily Telegraph.

The measures are reportedly due to be introduced for 4 July. From there, a second larger group of countries may be added at a later date, including Scandinavian states and low risk Caribbean Islands, the paper added.

It comes after the transport secretary Grant Shapps said the measure would only be agreed for countries with a coronavirus test-and-trace system at the same standard as the UK’s.

Asked by the Commons Transport Select Committee what the “key considerations” are in the negotiations with other nations to set up an air bridge, 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 added that the level and trajectory of the disease in a destination would also be a key consideration.

Mr Shapps said: “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.

“I know there’s a lot of arguments about what we should have been doing at the beginning,” he said, adding: “No, the chief medical officer told me at the beginning that (quarantine) would not be a solution from the outset.”

It comes as the number of people looking to book a quick getaway reportedly surges.

Citing data from price comparison website Travelsupermarket, The Times reports the firm has seen a 52 per cent increase in people booking a trip compared to two weeks ago — with seven of the top twenty destinations considered for trips being in Spain.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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