The government has confirmed it will relax quarantine measures on July 10 and remove its blanket advice against all non-essential travel from this Saturday.
Passengers returning to or visiting England from destinations with a ‘reduced risk’ of bringing Covid-19 to the UK will no longer need to self-isolate for 14 days.
The Department for Transport confirmed Germany, France, Spain and Italy will be on the list of countries deemed safe on its ‘traffic light system’, announced late last week. The full list of countries will be published today (Friday, July 3).
The government announced plans for a ‘traffic-light’ system to ease blanket quarantine restrictions on Friday last week, with transport secretary Grant Shapps expected to confirm details in line with a three-week review of quarantine restrictions on Monday.
However, he then issued a written statement saying a list of countries included on a Covid travel list would be published along with an update on FCO advice “later this week”.
The Foreign Office (FCO) will set out exemptions for a number of destinations from its global advisory against ‘all but essential’ international travel, with changes coming into effect on July 4.
All passengers, except those on a small list of exemptions, will still be required to provide contact information on arrival in the UK.
Those who have been in or transited through non-exempt countries in the 14 days before returning home from one of the ‘safe’ destinations will still have to self-isolate.
The UK’s devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will set out their own approach to exemptions.
The DfT said the list of countries will be determined by risk assessments conducted by the Joint Biosecurity Centre, Public Health England and the Chief Medical Officer, which looked at the prevalence of coronavirus, the numbers of new cases and potential trajectory of the disease in destinations.
The government said it expects “a number of” the exempted countries will also not require arrivals from the UK to self-isolate, meaning holidaymakers travelling to and from those destinations will not need to self-isolate on either leg of their journey.
The exempted countries and territories will be kept under “constant review”, the DfT said, “so that if the health risks increase self-isolation measures can be re-introduced to help stop the spread of the disease into England”.
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) has also updated its global advisory against ‘all but essential’ international travel to exempt certain destinations “that no longer pose an unacceptably high risk” of Covid-19. It is advising people planning overseas travel to check the latest FCO travel advice, and “stay alert to any changes” while they are travelling.
Shapps said: “Today marks the next step in carefully reopening our great nation. Whether you are a holidaymaker ready to travel abroad or a business eager to open your doors again, this is good news for British people and great news for British businesses.
“The entire nation has worked tirelessly to get to this stage, therefore safety must remain our watch word and we will not hesitate to move quickly to protect ourselves if infection rates rise in countries we are reconnecting with.”
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency and spokesman for the Quash Quarantine Group, said: “There are still several obstacles to be overcome, namely ensuring Scotland support the planned changes, but this is a welcome boost for the travel industry at such a critical time.
“The traffic light system will bring clarity to holidaymakers and businesses wanting to travel overseas as well as to travel firms desperate for visibility on what they can offer for this summer and beyond. It is remarkably good news that the blanket quarantine restrictions are being lifted from July 10, and that the changed FCO travel advice will mean we can plan to go away from tomorrow.”
Airlines welcomed the news. Dale Keller, chief executive of the The Board of Airline Representatives in the UK (BAR UK) said: “The list of exempted countries is what everyone is eagerly waiting for and what we need is clear and concise requirements following a period of short notice interventions that were often drip fed through to the industry and public.
“Lifting quarantine and revising the FCO travel advice, combined with the enhanced health measures employed throughout the passenger journey, is finally allowing the airline industry to safely welcome back passengers with their wellbeing and confidence as our top priorities.”
Keller said there was “no reason” the whole of the UK should not reopen to the same list of ‘safe’ countries the European Union has issued.
He added: “Every day that overseas markets are closed is costing the UK heavily in lost jobs, collapsing trade and negative social impacts, and we urge the UK government to continually review and expand the list countries as soon as the criteria is met.”
The exemptions from self-isolation apply to all modes of international transport, including sea and international rail routes as well as flights.