UK flips on international travel, eliminates quarantine period

UK: In a shift from earlier policy, the UK is set to eliminate the two-week self-isolation period for select international travellers.

The government seems set to ditch potential air bridge plans to allow unrestricted travel from a list of potentially 75 different countries.

Initial hints of the policy were revealed last Friday, when the government announced it would eliminate the 14-day quarantine for arrivals from France, Germany and Spain. This was part of the government’s air bridge plan, allowing for British and foreign travellers to fly internationally to countries with specific, reciprocal travel arrangements.

Now, however, the government has eliminated the need for these arrangements, allowing quarantine-free travel to a list of countries set to be released Thursday or Friday. This only applies to UK returns, as the various countries will continue to implement their own border controls and regulations.

The European Union, British Overseas Territories, Turkey, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand are expected to make up the first green list. The US, Brazil, Sweden and Russia will all be on a red list, requiring these travellers to quarantine.

The initial air bridge plan drew criticism for its difficulty in implementation, primarily with regard to the EU. Some worried that creating a list with specific exempt countries could cause diplomatic trouble.

Paul Charles, spokesman for the Quash Quarantine advocacy group, said to The Telegraph: “We have said all along that air bridges were unsustainable in Europe because you can’t restrict people travelling in the EU or Schengen. It’s sensible and logical and I wish we could have had it earlier.”

An announcement was expected earlier this week but was delayed after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon objected to the list’s growing size. Sturgeon notably retains the right to quarantine English visitors to Scotland but said she will make clear her reasoning if she objects to the plan.

Ireland may also lay in place restrictions against UK travellers, as the government is reportedly working on its own potential travel list. Since the UK currently has a higher infection rate, visitors may still be required to self-isolate when crossing the border.

As the government attempts to reboot hospitality later this week, many businesses see this new policy as potentially essential clarification. The transport secretary’s announcement this week is set to trigger the Foreign Office’s shift in the international no-go policy.

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