UK to close all travel corridors

The UK has closed all travel corridors as it moves to decrease the risk of importing the new variant of Covid-19.

Changes will come into effect at 4am on Monday, January 18.

Boris Johnson confirmed the change in a briefing from Downing Street on Friday evening.

It comes a day after the government moved to ban arrivals from 16 countries, including Portugal and most of South America due to the strain in Brazil.

Noting that there had been 1,280 Covid-related deaths in the last day, Johnson said: “This is not the time for the slightest relaxation of our national resolve and individual efforts.

More:Iata defends call to replace quarantine with testing

Agents say Supreme Court ruling is ‘best news in months’

Urging Britons to stay at home, he said: “To protect us from the risk of as yet unidentified new strains we will also temporarily close all travel coridors from 04:00 Monday.”

Johnson confirmed the measures would apply across the entire UK, and that anyone arriving in the UK must have proof of a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours, and fill in a passenger locator form.

Arrivals will also be subject to 10-day quarantine on arrival into the UK from all destinations. The ‘test to release’ system remains in place, meaning if a second test – taken on day five – returns negative, arrivals can end their quarantine early.

He warned of “substantial fines” for anyone breaking the rules, and said “we will be stepping up our enforcement both at the border and in-country”.

“It’s vital to take these extra measures now when, day-by-day, hour-by-hour, we are making such strides in protecting the population,” he said.

The UK has now vaccinated more than 3.2 million people, Johnson confirmed.

Airlines and travel agents said the announcement was necessary.

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, which represents UK-registered carriers, said: “Travel corridors were a lifeline for the industry last summer and the government were right to bring them in when they did. But ministers need to act to keep borders safe and the public protected.

“We therefore support this latest measure, on the assumption that we will work with Government – when the time is right – to remove these restrictions when it is safe to do so and start to open up our sector again.”

An Abta spokesperson agreed “public health is the absolute priority and the government needs to take the steps it feels necessary”.

However, the spokesperson said: “Travel has been affected by the pandemic for over 10 months now, with travel businesses generating little or no income during this time, yet unlike other sectors, such as hospitality and the arts, the Westminster Government hasn’t provided any sector-specific support.

“The Government needs to address this as a matter of urgency.

“It is also important the Government engages with industry to come up with a plan for future overseas travel for when restrictions are lifted.”

Joanne Dooey, president of the Scottish Passenger Agents Associaton (SPAA), said: “We are wholly supportive of measures taken to protect the health of everyone in the UK.

“There were few travel corridors left open for UK travellers, so we’ve been moving towards this state for some time.

“The vitally important step that needs to be taken now is for the UK and Scottish governments to work with our industry to develop a robust strategy for restarting travel to and from the UK.

“We need a clear and credible route map for recovery which covers exactly what testing protocols will be and how testing will be managed.”

Airport Operators Association chief executive Karen Dee agreed “the closure of travel corridors is understandable” but called for support for airports.

She said: “This adds to the near-complete shutdown of the UK’s airports.

“The UK and devolved governments need to set out as a matter of extreme urgency how they will support airports through this deepening crisis.

“Business rate support, announced last year and in England not yet even open to applications, is no longer sufficient to ensure airports can weather the months ahead.

“Airports are keeping their infrastructure open to support vital and critical services . . . while running on empty. There is only so long they can run on fumes before having to close to preserve their business for the future.”

Clive Wratten, chief executive of the Business Travel Association, said: “Public safety must come first. [But] it is imperative the government issues detailed information on where essential travellers can get acceptable tests to meet the UK’s entry requirements.

“Many essential workers need to travel – medical researchers, energy suppliers and humanitarian [workers]. They must be able to undertake vital work with confidence in procedures, safe in the knowledge they can return home.”

UKinbound chief executive Joss Croft also called the closure “an understandable decision”, but reiterated calls for sector-specific support for travel businesses impacted by coronavirus restrictions.

He said “The government needs to provide urgent, tailored support for the inbound tourism industry. It simply cannot afford to continue excluding it from support channels.

“To save the summer season, it’s also imperative the government signals that these new measures are only temporary, and that the government consults with industry to put in place a clear roadmap to reopen the sector when it’s safe to do so.”

The travel and transport union the TSSA hailed the removal of travel corridors as “better late than never”.

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “This measure should have been put in place last March when our country first went into lockdown.

“The countries which have most successfully combatted this virus – including Australia and New Zealand – have had tight border restrictions and mandatory quarantine as an early intervention, proving it works.”

Cortes added: “This government is shockingly woeful at taking the action needed to keep people safe. They have failed our people, our economy and have countless lives on their hands.”

Earlier on Friday, the Welsh government confirmed that all international arrivals to Wales from outside the common travel area would be required to present a negative Covid test before departure from Monday.

The move brought Wales in line with England, which previously announced it would require a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure for all international arrivals.

The measures for England were originally due to be implemented on Friday morning, before being pushed back to Monday.

Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething said: “We are doing everything we can to slow down the spread of the virus.

“These new measures will help ensure we prevent new strains of the virus developing internationally from being imported into Wales.

“Added to the requirement to self-isolate, pre-departure tests will provide a further line of defence – helping us control the virus as we continue to roll-out the vaccine at pace.”

Share article

View Comments

Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

The highest official awards for UK businesses since being established by royal warrant in 1965. Read more.