- Uninterrupted travel likely to be allowed with the safe countries, without a need to self-quarantine on either side
- List to be drawn based on the current level of Covid-19 infection rate, countries with low rates expected to be included
- France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Iceland, Austria, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Finland, Barbados, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, and Dubai are expected to be categorised as safe
The UK PM is expected to release the new international air travel rules on 6 July 2020, with pressure mounting on the government to come out with the full list of air bridges soon. The list will name all the countries where Britishers can travel freely without the need for a quarantine restriction, on either side. The country citizens are waiting eagerly for the list so that there is no confusion when they start to make their holiday or work-related air travel bookings, and do not waste any money on cancelations later. Holiday making and travel companies also need clarity to plan out their operations.
Earlier, Grant Shapps, UK transport secretary had said that the details about air bridges will be revealed on 29 June 2020. The government is closely analysing the public health impact of the no-quarantine travel rule, which is the main reason for the delay. Apart from the transport and health departments, consultation is also being sought from the divisions of home, foreign affairs and cabinet.
Under the existing plan that began on 8 June, anyone coming back to Britain by air from another country, has to undergo a two-week quarantine, before going out anywhere.
It is pertinent to note here that each UK nation including England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales will be setting their own quarantine rules, and they might be slightly different from that of the British government. Border control comes under the UK’s jurisdiction, health standards are set by each nation separately. For instance, the government of Scotland is yet to take a decision on revising its quarantine measures.
Moreover, currently not even an over-night holiday is permitted within the United Kingdom. The holiday accommodations in England are closed and its residents can’t travel to Northern Ireland, Scotland, or Wales for a holiday. Other UK nations have similar restrictions in place.
So, what exactly is an air bridge?
An air bridge is a concept that allows uninterrupted travel between any two countries that have a low rate of Covid-19 infection. While using the air bridge, travelers will not be required to quarantine on either side of arrival. Sometimes the phrase ‘travel corridor’ is also used to talk about the same concept.
Once implemented, air bridges are expected to provide a big boost to the ailing travel and tourism industry in Britain. It is impacted badly by shrinking cash flows, high maintenance costs, falling revenues and is laying off staff, adding to rising unemployment numbers across the nation.
The criteria for assessment: The main criteria to select the countries is simple. If a nation’s current corona infection rate is lower than that of the UK, it will be given a green signal and Britain shall have a quarantine-free travel corridor with the selected nation. Countries will be categorized under green, amber and red zones, similar to the traffic light colours, according to their risk-assessment levels to spread the Covid-19 flu. The countries listed under the red zone will not be safe to travel without a self-quarantine rule.
Additionally, the list will not be fixed, and might need changes overtime, based on the changing rates of infection in various countries mentioned under it. The list could also be broadened if the infection rates fall in some other countries.
Apart from the lower rate of infection, other criteria which may be included to prepare the final list are country’s economic relations with the UK, average number of passengers traveling on the air-bridge route, and health measures at the respective airports and in the country as a whole.
Which countries are expected to be on the list?
Another speculation doing the rounds is that the number of countries on the list could go up to 95. The earlier the list is out, the better it is for the travel industry and people wanting to go for their much-awaited summer holidays.
The top contenders on the list are most certainly the short-haul destination across European nations. France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Iceland, Austria, and Italy are expected to be on the list. If you travel from Britain to France, Germany, Bulgaria, Estonia, Austria, or Croatia right now, you will need to self-isolate for a period of two weeks.
However, Britons flying into Italy, Spain, Belgium, or Iceland are not required to self-quarantine.
Apart from these, the Netherlands, Norway and Finland, and Barbados are also expected to be a part of the green category on the list.
Portugal was also likely to be on the list earlier but with its infection rate shooting up, especially around Lisbon, it may be off the list for the time being. At present, the UK flyers going to Portugal are not needed to self-quarantine.
For Greece, news reports speculated that it will be on the air bridges list. However, on 1 July, Greece government has extended ban on Britons flying into the nation till 15 July, due to high corona infections in the UK. Airlines are therefore being forced to cancel the earlier schedules flights from Britain to Greece. TUI, Ryanair and easyJet are particularly affected.
Sweden may not be able to make up to the list as it has a higher rate of corona infections as compared to Britain.
Australia and New Zealand
Being the typical long-haul destinations for Britons, flights to Australia and New Zealand need a closer evaluation, especially for non-direct flights which may involve stop-over destinations with higher rates of corona infections. There are media reports claiming that with their low infection rates, these two nations could be getting a green light from the British government.
A special visa is needed to travel to Australia from Britain, under the present circumstances.
However, it is interesting to take a look at the current state of affairs in New Zealand. Its health minister resigned on 1 July, as he broke the country’s lockdown rules by driving his family to the beach. This may delay the nation’s ongoing free travel talks with Britain. Further, two weeks back on 15 June, the New Zealand government recorded two new cases of corona infections, arriving from two British women who travelled to the nation. The last corona infection in New Zealand was diagnosed 24 days back. This also might be a point of contention.
Thailand, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, and Dubai are expected to be a part of the list.
With a high rate of infection, the US is not expected to be a part of the list. UK citizens are also not being allowed presently to the United States for the same reasons.
As a summary, the UK government is being cautious in releasing its list of safe to travel countries, which is expected to be out on Monday, July 6. Trying to do its homework right, the government is worried over any plausible rise in corona-relate infections across Britain, with this move. Many European countries like France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia and Italy are expected to be on the list, as they have relatively lower rates of infection. Australia and New Zealand might also be a part of the sought-after list.