The UK government is reportedly ready to ditch bilateral air bridge agreements with countries with lower rates of coronavirus infection in favour of broader quarantine exemptions.
According to The Telegraph, as many as 75 countries could make an initial quarantine exemption list, which is expected to be published on Thursday (2 July) or Friday (3 July).
Countries making the list are based on Covid prevalence and their respective rates of declining infection; the new regime, if it goes ahead, could come into force as soon as Monday (6 July) according to The Telegraph, meaning anyone returning to the UK from these countries would be exempt from quarantine.
Nearly all EU destinations, many British overseas territories, as well as several holiday hotspots are expected to make the list.
Quash Quarantine campaigner Paul Charles welcomed the move, which reflects the campaign’s efforts to pursue an EU-wide quarantine exemption.
"It’s to be welcomed the government is effectively abandoning travel corridors and blanket quarantine measures, and enabling travel again to such a wide group of countries," said Charles.
"When confirmed, we will get certainty again in our sector, which is badly needed. Each day that goes by without confirmation means fewer bookings and more job losses.
"It’s time the government levelled with the British people on its travel policy, instead of going round and round in circles before making any decision.”
It comes after transport secretary Grant Shapps on Monday (29 June) said the government would "shortly begin to ease health measures at the UK border".
Signalling a u-turn on both air bridges and quarantine, Shapps said this would involve "allowing passengers to be exempted from self-isolation requirements in certain circumstances on arrival in the UK".
He said a list of countries had been drawn up by the UK’s Joint Biosecurity Centre, in consultation with Public Health England and the UK’s chief medical officer.
This, he said, involved categorising countries and territories considered to present "a lower risk from a public health perspective for passengers to enter the UK without a requirement for 14 days’ isolation".
"This has been informed by factors including the prevalence of coronavirus within the country and, crucially, the numbers of new cases and potential trajectory in the coming weeks of the disease in the country," said Shapps.
"This categorisation will inform ministerial decisions about the easing of the current border measures."
Shapps said further details, including a full list of countries and territories from which arrivals will be exempted from quarantine, would be published "later this week".
He added the Foreign Ofice was reviewing its travel advice, with further details also to be announced later this week. The FCO continues to advise against all non-essential travel worldwide.
On Friday (26 June), the government announced plans for a traffic light system to govern overseas travel during the coronavirus crisis. No further details have yet been disclosed.
The UK had been understood to be close to several air bridge agreements with Spain, France, Italy and Germany as the EU reopens its borders internally.
Portugal is not expected to feature in a first announcement owing to fresh coronavirus spikes in Lisbon and the Algarve.