Thursday 2 July 2020 2:11 pm

Up to 75 countries to be exempt from quarantine rules as 'air bridges' thrown out

As many as 75 countries will be exempt from the UK’s blanket quarantine rules, it is reported, suggesting the government has effectively thrown out plans for individual air bridges.

The initial list of countries exempt from the restrictions is due to be published before the end of the week, according to the Daily Telegraph.

And the government is set to lift the ban on non-essential travel to destinations including the whole of the EU.

Read more: Work still ‘ongoing’ on air bridges, says Alok Sharma

British overseas territories such as Bermuda and Gibraltar will also be on the list, as will Turkey, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand.

But the US, Russia and Brazil, all of which have high rates of coronavirus circulation, will remain banned for all but essential travel.

As of Monday, those who wish to travel to the listed destinations will not have to self-isolate for 14 days on returning, as under the previous rules, the Telegraph reported.

The 75 countries listed have been deemed safe enough for holidaymakers based on the prevalence of coronavirus, declining infection rates and trustworthy data on the disease.

But some countries on the list, such as New Zealand and Australia, are keeping their borders closed and are expected to do so for the rest of the year.

And Greece on Sunday announced it would not allow flights from the UK until 15 July, despite having reopened to the rest of Europe from 1 July.

The Department of Transport did not respond to an initial request for comment.

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The quarantine rules have been subject to harsh criticism since their introduction on 8 June, with MPs and businesses slamming their impact on an already devastated tourism and travel sector.

However, the new plans, which would see the Foreign Office change its advice regarding non-essential travels to the listed locations, suggest that the much-touted “air bridge” solution has been deemed unworkable.

Members of the travel sector welcomed the new scheme, with Paul Charles, a spokesman for the 500-strong Quash Quarantine campaign group, telling the Telegraph: “We have said all along that air bridges were unsustainable in Europe because you can’t restrict people travelling in the EU or Schengen.

“It’s sensible and logical and I wish we could have had it earlier. It begs the question as to why have we gone round in circles.”

Ministers had been expected to make the announcement at the beginning of the week. But it was reported that Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon had derailed the plans. She had objections to the growing number of countries included under the measures.

Speaking in parliament this morning, transport secretary Grant Shapps asked for SNP MP Gavin Newlands’ “help” in getting devolved administrations, including Scotland, “on board” with the plan.

Sturgeon challenged Shapps’ comments in a tweet, saying that they were a “misrepresentation” of her position.

In a statement on Monday, Shapps said a full list of the countries and territories would be released this week.

Read more: Tui UK boss calls on ministers to give clarity over ‘air bridges’

He also confirmed that the FCO was reviewing its travel advice.

Earlier this week the EU announced a group of 14 countries to which members should open their borders, which again did not include the US.