London: The U.K. is considering a plan to allow unhindered flights from countries with a low risk of spreading coronavirus as pressure mounts on ministers to scrap controversial quarantine plans.
Arrivals in Britain will have to self-isolate for 14 days under rules to be introduced June 8, which travel executives warn could devastate their industry. The restrictions are due to be reviewed after three weeks and officials are looking at ways of reducing them, including the so-called air bridges to countries with low incidence of the disease.
“Our priority will always be to protect the public’s health, and these new measures are being introduced to do exactly this,” the Home Office said in a statement late Monday. “We will continue to look at options to increase international travel, when it is safe to do so.”
More than 200 travel and hospitality executives called on ministers to scrap the quarantine plans and relax advice warning against non-essential travel. The International Air Transport Association also published research suggesting the policy of 14 days of self-isolation for U.K. arrivals will put people off flying almost as much as fears surrounding the pandemic itself.
Travel companies are ramping up efforts to head off the quarantine plan before it takes effect in a bid to salvage what’s left of the summer vacation season. Ryanair Holdings Plc Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Leary has called the plans “unscientific” and “unimplementable.”
Prime Minister’s Support
The proposal to open air bridges by the end of June has the personal support of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported, citing unidentified officials. It was first floated by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps in May, though at that time other ministers distanced themselves from the idea.
Johnson’s office didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday evening.
In a letter to Home Secretary Priti Patel, the industry executives said the quarantine plan is already damaging the U.K. travel sector. By contrast, corridors of free movement between low-risk cities or countries could allow the safe return of flights, they said.
IATA said a survey found 45% of people were very concerned about the U.K. quarantine, versus 47% with the same level of worry about Covid-19. A further 41% were somewhat concerned.
“Even if concerns about Covid decline as the virus recedes, if quarantine is still in place, then air travel is unlikely to pick up,” Rafael Schvartzman, the trade group’s vice president for Europe, said in a statement.
Some carriers are looking to resume U.K. flights as early as this month, with Luton, England-based EasyJet Plc due to restart June 15. – Bloomberg