What is the ‘islands policy’ and how will this affect travellers?

Islands that are popular tourist destinations can now be removed separately from the quarantine-free list. Credit: PA

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said that England is to start applying a regional approach to its coronavirus quarantine policy for international arrivals.

But what does this mean for travellers?

  • What is the 'island's policy'?

Islands can now be individually added to or removed from England’s quarantine-free list, Mr Shapps said in a statement to the House of Commons on Monday.

This means they will be treated separately from their mainland countries.

  • Why has the approach to international travel changed?

The Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) has been commissioned to assess the most popular island destinations for British tourists.

Mr Shapps said: “Through the use of enhanced data we will now be able to pinpoint risk in some of the most popular islands, providing increased flexibility to add or remove them – distinct from the mainland – as infection rates change.

“This development will help boost the UK’s travel industry while continuing to maintain maximum protection to public health, keeping the travelling public safe.”

From 4am on Wednesday, arrivals from seven Greek islands will need to self-isolate for 14 days – but mainland Greece will maintain its quarantine-exemption.

These are the islands of Lesvos, Tinos, Serifos, Mykonos, Crete, Santorini and Zakynthos, also known as Zante.

  • Can regions within a country’s mainland be added and removed?

The Department for Transport said it is not safe to implement a fully regional system for international travel corridors, as there is too much movement between regions within countries.

However, it said that when a region has natural boundaries – like an island – the risks reduce, so changes will only apply to land that has a clear border and “robust, reliable and internationally comparable data” is available.

The island must also have direct flights to the UK, or transport must have taken place through exempt territories.

  • How is this different to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?

This decision brings England partly into line with Wales, which removed six Greek islands from its quarantine-free list last week.

Scotland reintroduced quarantine measures for those returning from the whole of Greece last Thursday, while Northern Ireland has so far resisted tightening the travel guidance for the Mediterranean country.

Madrid urged the UK to exclude the Canaries and Balearics – which include popular tourist resorts on Ibiza, Majorca and Menorca – when its quarantine requirements were imposed at the end of July.

But Mr Shapps told the Commons on Monday that cases currently remain “too high” in these areas.

  • Are holidaymakers worried about quarantine countries?

  • How has the tourism industry reacted to the news?

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, which represents UK carriers, said it was a “step in the right direction” that gave further choice and clarity for travellers.

But he added: “That said, a comprehensive testing regime is urgently required to enable connectivity to and from countries like the US, one of our most vital trading and strategic partners.”

This was echoed by Airport Operators Association (AOA) chief executive Karen Dee, who urged the Government to decide on a testing regime to be put in place “as soon as possible”.