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Transport Secretary says coronavirus ‘air bridges’ will arrive ‘when safe to do so’

Image credit: Danny Howard/CC BY 2.0

Transport Secretary says coronavirus ‘air bridges’ will arrive ‘when safe to do so’

The UK Government will review its controversial plan to quarantine all arrivals into the UK “every few weeks” and is still looking at how to introduce air bridges, the Transport Secretary has confirmed.

Grant Shapps said he would look at proposals which would mean Brits could “go abroad and tourists can come here” amid warnings from MPs and the travel industry that asking all arrivals to self-isolate for 14 days will further damage the sector.

Home Secretary Priti Patel will on Wednesday introduce the rules imposing the quarantine from June 8.

It will see all international arrivals, including Brits returning to the UK, asked to complete an online form giving their contact details and an address of where they will self-isolate for 14 days.

Public health officials will be able to carry out spot-checks and police will be able to hand out fines of £1,000 to enforce the measures, and the government says foreign nationals who do not comply could be removed from the country “as a last resort”.

Failure to complete the form upon arrival in the UK will meanwhile result in a £100 fine from border officials, the Home Office said.

Confirming the plans, Patel said: “As we get the virus under control here, we must manage the risk of cases being imported from abroad. We owe it to the thousands who’ve lost their lives not to throw away our progress.

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

Shapps, whose transport department has clashed with the Home Office over the proposals, meanwhile said: “To get the country and our economy back up and running, we must do everything to avoid a second wave of the virus, because if we get this wrong we will all suffer, and that’s why introducing these measures now is so important.”

But he added: “These measures will be reviewed every few weeks, and we are working with the transport industry to see how we can introduce agreements with other countries when safe to do so, so we can go abroad and tourists can come here.”

The introduction of the quarantine comes despite a backlash from senior Conservative MPs, with more than 50 Tory members said to be opposed to the measures, which will not be put to a Commons vote.

Boris Johnson is meanwhile reported to be “personally in favour” of opening up air bridges between Britain and low-risk countries, with the Department for Transport and Home Office ordered to look at Greece, Portugal and Australia as potential candidates.

The government on Tuesday night said it “continues to look at other options to increase travel when it is deemed safe to do so”.

It added: “These include arrangements, known as ‘air bridges’ or international travel corridors, which would remove self-isolation measures and safely open up routes to and from countries with low transmission rates.

“Agreement would need to be made with individual countries before these measures take effect and the UK would seek assurances that any safe corridors met the needs of both countries.”

The first review of the quarantine will take place by 29 June, it said.

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