Holidaymakers in England given green light to travel abroad from Saturday
English holidaymakers can embark on overseas trips from Saturday as quarantine restrictions are lifted and travel advice is updated.
The 14-day self-isolation policy for people returning to or visiting England from destinations such as Spain, France, Italy and Germany is being lifted, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced.
Meanwhile, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) will exempt a number of countries from its advisory against all non-essential travel, which has been in place since March 17 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The change in travel advice comes into force on Saturday, while the quarantine policy will be amended from July 10.
That means people who depart on Saturday and spend at least six days in certain locations will not need to self-isolate on their return.
A full list of the countries deemed to pose “a reduced risk to the public health of UK citizens” will be published later on Friday.
It will be kept “under constant review” so that self-isolation measures can be re-introduced if health risks increase.
There is speculation the initial list could feature as many as 75 countries, such as those in the European Union, British territories including Bermuda and Gibraltar, as well as Turkey, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand.
Ministers failed to guarantee reciprocal arrangements with all the included nations, meaning some may require English holidaymakers to go into quarantine at the beginning of their trip.
They were also unable to convince the devolved administrations to sign off on the overall plan, with the DfT stating that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will “set out their own approach”.
The requirement for everyone arriving into the UK – bar a handful of exemptions – to self-isolate for 14 days was introduced on June 8.
It was met with fierce criticism over the impact on the UK’s travel, tourism and hospitality industries.
The DfT said a risk assessment for lifting the quarantine for arrivals into England was conducted by the Joint Biosecurity Centre in consultation with Public Health England and the chief medical officer.
This considered factors for each destination, including the prevalence of coronavirus, the number of new cases and the potential trajectory of the disease.
Passengers will still be required to provide contact information on arrival in England.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told ITV that the government had been "really careful and cautious" in bringing in these exemptions.
"We're very well aware that this virus is still out there, it's not defeated anywhere, including here and we have to be very, very cautious," the Transport Secretary said. "These are places we believe we can rely on and we have reciprocal arrangements in many cases. It means that people can have confidence. "Having said that we will always keep a very close track on this to make sure the situation doesn't change and if it does, then I'm afraid we would have to exclude them."
Mr Shapps told ITV News that the countries on the list were chosen because they have the same or a lower level of infection than us.
"They are at least as safe to be in," he said
"We've gone beyond just looking at the data on coronavirus infections, for example, or fatalities.
"We've also looked at things like how they treat that information, the data, for example what the social distancing rules are, to make sure we're on a broadly similar track with these countries."
Ahead of the opening of large parts of the hospitality sector this weekend, Mr Shapps said he would welcome foreign visitors from exempt countries to the UK to boost business.
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency and member of the Quash Quarantine campaign group, said: “There are still several obstacles to be overcome, namely ensuring Scotland support the planned changes.
“But this is a welcome boost for the travel industry at such a critical time.
A spokesman for trade association Airlines UK said: “There’s no doubt quarantine has had a devastating impact on our industry and whilst it’s welcome the Government has removed its blanket ban, we would encourage rigour and science is applied in all future decisions surrounding our businesses.”