Industry sources report “a lack of urgency” in government after the Department for Transport (DfT) announced the removal of Belgium and the Bahamas from the ‘Covid-safe’ list of countries exempt from UK quarantine rules late on Thursday.

Malaysia and Brunei were added to the quarantine exemption list, but restrictions on travellers returning from Spain and Portugal are not expected to be lifted for at least “a few weeks”.

Belgium was removed from the exemption list following a sharp rise in Covid-19 infections.

There is a fear any further relaxation in August will be limited, with a source revealing: “There is no sense of urgency except where the government applies quarantine to a country.”

Portugal and Spain quarantine

A source involved in talks with the government told Travel Weekly: “We’ll have to wait a few more weeks for Portugal to be brought on the list, and for Spain to return.

“It seems a kind of malaise has descended. There is talk now about an aviation recovery plan for the autumn. That misses the point.

“We’ve been trying to get the DfT to talk about the ‘at risk’ countries. We want the ‘amber’ countries identified and to know what the trend is so decisions like that on Spain aren’t such a shock.”

The government introduced a ‘traffic-light’ system of green, amber and red to classify the Covid-19 risk of travellers from a destination, with green and amber allowing an exemption from quarantine rules.

But it has not revealed whether countries on the Covid-safe list are classified green or amber, or the criteria used to decide.

The source acknowledged access to an ‘at risk’ list of destinations could be counterproductive, saying: “There could be a number of countries on it and publishing it could have a negative impact on customer confidence.”

Airport Covid tests

Testing travellers appears to offer the only way to relax restrictions and extend the limited list of travel corridors in the short term.

An aviation source told Travel Weekly: “This system of ‘quarantine, not quarantine’, ‘open corridors, close corridors’ is all the government can do at the moment. Testing would bring another tool.

“The industry is trying to ascertain what is acceptable to Public Health England and to the Department of Health. Is it a test on arrival and another test five days later? Or is it a test before departure?

“How robust does the system need to be – and would the consumer pay for that?”

Covid tests on air passengers are expected to cost from £100 to £150 each. The source said: “It begs the question who these tests are aimed at.

“Testing will raise the price of travel. But it’s one of the only things we can do.”