The government has announced a new regionalised travel corridors policy, opening the way to relax quarantine restrictions on arrivals from some island destinations.
However, announcing the policy in Parliament today, transport secretary Grant Shapps revealed the first change would be to impose restrictions on travellers returning from seven Greek islands from 4am on Wednesday.
The restrictions will apply to Lesvos, Tinos, Serifos, Mykonos, Santorini, Crete and Zakynthos
Shapps told Parliament: “During July and August, we did not have the data to assess [countries] regionally. But as Joint Biosecurity Centre resources have become stronger we are now able to [introduce] a regional system for travel corridors.
“In many cases the travel data is still too patchy and there is nothing to prevent people moving around.
“So the Joint Biosecurity Centre and the government at present are unable to introduce regional corridors within states. However, where natural borders exist we can. So I can today announce a new island policy.
“We have the data and capacity from today to add and remove islands from the quarantine policy, with four guiding principles – it can only apply to islands with clear boundaries, the data must be robust, the island must have direct flights or be accessible through quarantine-exempt territory, and the FCO advice should align as far as possible.”
As a consequence, he said: “We will be able to nuance our decisions to enable British tourist to enjoy their holidays.”
However, Shapps told MPs: “The policy will not immediately open up travel to islands.
“Greece remains within the travel corridor programme, but using new data we are now in position to remove seven Greek islands from the travel corridors list at 4am on Wednesday.”
He warned: “Travelling during coronavirus is not without risk. Travel with your eyes open.”
Asked about introducing testing, Shapps said: “Testing at borders sounds logical, but it will not capture those who are asymptomatic.
“Quarantine combined with testing is more positive. We are working on a test and quarantine policy and I will update the House on testing in the coming weeks. I will return with proposals that are currently being worked on with the industry.”
But he insisted: “We have to have the science behind this. So far Porton Down [the government research centre] has not approved any test that you read about in the press.”