Quarantine: Government accused of ‘reverse engineering’ controversial policy with air bridges

‘Other countries are wondering why the UK is making things so complicated,’ said Paul Charles of Quash Quarantine campaign group

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Friday 26 June 2020 19:36 BST
Passengers arrive at Heathrow on the first day of the 14-day quarantine policy
Passengers arrive at Heathrow on the first day of the 14-day quarantine policy (AP)

With three more days before the government is expected to reveal details of “air bridges” between Britain and other European countries, concern is growing that key destinations could be left out.

There are fears in the travel industry that Portugal may be left out of the initial list.

This could cause widespread last-minute cancellations of flights and holidays – increasing the financial damage to airlines and tour operators.

Almost everyone coming into the UK from abroad is required to self-isolate for two weeks. There is no facility to avoid the measure by undergoing a test for Covid-19.

The government says: “These measures are informed by science, backed by the public and will keep us all safe.”

But quarantine has stifled bookings for inbound and outbound travel. Since it was first mooted in May, the big package holiday companies, Tui and Jet2, have cancelled thousands of holidays, affecting hundreds of thousands of customers.

Paul Charles, spokesperson for the Quash Quarantine pressure group, said: “Bearing in mind most people in the UK travel on holiday to Spain, France, Italy, Ireland, Portugal, Greece and the US, then these corridors will be critical to open at some point soon.”

He said that the view from abroad of the quarantine policy is one of bemusement.

“Other countries are wondering why the UK is making things so complicated, and why it took so long to introduce quarantine in the first place.

“Let’s see which are included but I wouldn’t want to be Boris Johnson turning up at the EU leaders’ summit in mid-July and having to sit alongside a European neighbour that I hadn’t opened a travel corridor to.”

A senior holiday company figure described the blanket quarantine policy as “madness”.

“Instead of targeting the few countries that are doing worse than the UK for quarantine, the government are trying to reverse-engineer their way out of a ridiculous blanket ban.”

Ministers say that while the policy requiring everyone coming into the UK to self-isolate for two weeks is appropriate, there are some well-performing countries from which the blanket rule could be relaxed.

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