The long-awaited announcement over quarantine-free countries will finally come at around lunchtime today, with France, Spain, Italy and Germany already confirmed as on the list.
But the date has been pushed back slightly, so that the need to quarantine will be dropped for arrivals from certain countries from July 10, not from July 6 as previously mooted.
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.
These travel advice exemptions will come into effect on 4 July and will be kept under review.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps will set out further details and reveal the other quarantine-free destinations later today.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
The Board of Airline Representatives in the UK (BAR UK) said the list should be constantly reviewed because every day that overseas markets are closed is costing the UK heavily in lost jobs, collapsing trade and negative social impacts.
Chief executive Dale Keller 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.and we urge the UK Government to continually review and expand the list countries as soon as the criteria is met.”
Paul Charles, 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 should 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 10th July, and that the changed FCO travel advice will mean we can plan to go away from tomorrow.”
A spokesman for ABTA said the decision will be ‘greeted with huge relief’ by the travel industry, which can now plan ahead and take summer holiday bookings.
“Travel businesses have been under enormous pressure since the start of the pandemic, and the industry can now start to meet customers’ pent-up appetite for travel. Getting the balance of health risk and economic risk is a difficult challenge, and we strongly support the Government in taking this initiative.
“There will be some changes to people’s travel experiences because of the health and safety measures in place to limit Covid-19, and it will be important going forward that customers speak to their travel provider so that they so they can book and travel with confidence. And, of course, continued access to overseas destinations depends on our keeping Covid infection and transmission rates low in this country, so everyone should continue to heed public health guidelines.
“We now urgently await the approach to be taken by the Devolved Administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to relaxing travel restrictions.”
Others in the industry were more cautious, warning the travel sector is still a long way off from recovery.
Derek Jones, UK chief executive of Kuoni’s parent DER Touristik, tweeted: “Welcome news, but let’s be really clear, this isn’t the end ofthe challenges that the travel industry faces. It’s just the end of end of the beginning; still a long way from the beginning of the end. The journey to full recovery remains a long and difficult one which not all will finish.”
The Business Travel Association said further help for the industry is needed, with one in two jobs at risk in the coming months.
But it said it was pleased key travel cities, such as Paris and Frankfurt, have been included.
“The BTA has never supported quashing quarantine completely. Safety must remain paramount, and the traffic-light system is a more practical solution to the evolving global situation,” it said.
AITO director Noel Josephides says the decision has come too late and the damage has already been done. See his comment here.