Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand
Summer holidays abroad have been given the green light after ministers confirmed the requirement to self-isolate for 14 days upon returning to the UK will be scrapped for a slew of popular destinations.
In place of the quarantine arrangements will be a traffic light system, with officials placing countries into green, amber and red categories based on the prevalence of coronavirus within each nation’s borders.
Only passengers arriving into the UK from nations in the red category, where the spread of coronavirus is deemed to be high, will be told to self-isolate for two weeks.
The Telegraph reported that as many as 50 countries could be included in the quarantine-free list when it is published on Wednesday, with restrictions lifted as soon as July 6.
The Foreign Office is also set to lift its caution against all but essential travel for those countries in the green and amber categories to coincide with the announcement, a factor the Daily Mail claimed would make travel insurance more affordable.
Political Correspondent Paul Brand on what the revised quarantine measures could mean.
Only passengers arriving into the UK from nations in the red category, where the spread of coronavirus is deemed to be high, will be told to self-isolate for two weeks, under the fresh proposals.
Ministers have warned countries could fall into the unsafe category if there are sudden outbreaks, meaning holidaymakers could return to find they unexpectedly have to lock themselves away for 14 days.
Travellers will, however, still have to hand over the address they plan to reside at on their return, no matter which country they are coming back from.
As well as allowing holidays abroad to take place this summer, the Government said the changes would provide a “vital lifeline for UK travel operators and those whose jobs rely on the travel industry”.
A Government spokeswoman said: “Our public health measures at the border were put in place to manage the risk of imported cases and help prevent a second wave of the virus, and will continue to support our fight against coronavirus.
“Our new risk-assessment system will enable us to carefully open a number of safe travel routes around the world – giving people the opportunity for a summer holiday abroad and boosting the UK economy through tourism and business.
“But we will not hesitate to put on the brakes if any risks re-emerge, and this system will enable us to take swift action to reintroduce self-isolation measures if new outbreaks occur overseas.”
A relaxation of quarantine arrangements on foreign trips is “very good news” for the travel industry, which has gone through a “very difficult period”, Jonathan Smith from trade organisation Abta said.
He said the industry is now awaiting news of which countries will be in which risk categories.
He told BBC Breakfast: “It will kick-start bookings for the summer and people can look forward to a summer holiday. What we really need though is confirmation of those lists of countries which is really important, and the date and the change of the FCO travel advice which currently advises against all but essential travel.”
He said things like table service only and new rules on flights will make it a different experience for holidaymakers, such as changes to buffet-style restaurants.
And on Saturday morning, Greek tourism minister Haris Theoharis indicated it could be three weeks before his country is happy to open up an air bridge to the UK.
Mr Theoharis said they were "consulting with health experts but I think given the fact that the UK is in the right direction, it’s a matter of a few days or a few weeks to ensure that all restrictions are lifted".
He added on BBC Breakfast: "As soon as we have more clarity, we’ll be able to convey the right dates and the right message so that’s why it’s not easy for me to pinpoint exact dates. I’m just giving you the feeling of the advice that we get from the experts currently."
Since June 8, all passengers – bar a handful of exemptions – have been required to go into self-isolation for a fortnight at a declared address when they arrive in the UK.
Those 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.
The International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG) branded the blanket quarantine measures “illogical” and budget airline Ryanair labelled them “idiotic rubbish”.
But, with Home Secretary Priti Patel promising to review the restrictions every three weeks, the Government has signalled that the quarantine will be lifted for a host of destinations in time for the holiday season.
A full list of the low risk countries in the green and amber categories, where people will be able to enter the UK from without being required to self-isolate, is due to be published next week.
It is expected that restriction-free travel will be able to resume with those countries possibly as soon as July 6, with European countries France, Spain and Greece first in line, Government sources confirmed.
The Joint Biosecurity Centre, working with Public Health England, has been responsible for categorising the countries it believes would be safe for people to enter the UK from without needing to self-isolate.
But easing the post-travel rules will come with tighter measures for mask-wearing.
Government sources said all passengers will be required by law to wear face coverings on planes and ferries to protect others.
The Foreign Office is also set to change its travel advice warning against all but essential travel, with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab agreeing to lift the warning for countries and territories where the public health risk is no longer “unacceptably high”, according to a spokesman for the Cabinet minister.
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