England scraps quarantine requirement for top holiday destinations

The Foreign Office will lift its no-go warning from dozens of holiday and business destinations on Saturday – but the quarantine arrangements for returning travellers are in disarray, with England diverging from the other UK nations.

The government currently has a “double lock” in place designed to prevent overseas tourism and business travel during the coronavirus crisis.

The FCO advice against non-essential travel anywhere overseas has prevailed since 17 March. Since 8 June, all travellers arriving in the UK, including returning holidaymakers, have had to self-isolate for two weeks.

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A late-night government statement said: “The FCO will set out exemptions for a number of destinations from its global advisory against ‘all but essential’ international travel, with changes coming into effect on 4 July.”

The change will mean that standard travel insurance policies are valid for the selected countries.

The full list has been the subject of much speculation. It will be revealed today by the transport secretary, Grant Shapps.

France, Spain, Italy and Germany are included, along with almost all other European Union nations except Sweden. Turkey, Norway and Iceland are also expected to be included.

Even if a country is included on the list, there is no guarantee that UK visitors will be welcomed. Greece, which is believed to be rated “green” on the new “traffic-light” system, has banned direct flights from the UK until 15 July.

Mr Shapps said: “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.”

But the chaos involving quarantine is still far from resolved. The government insists that the mandatory 14 days of self-isolation is “informed by science, backed by the public and will keep us all safe”.

That assertion has been rejected by many senior Tory MPs, as well as medical experts. The quarantine policy has been blamed for costing jobs and weakening the travel industry still further.

As the UK government seeks to perform an awkward U-turn from the blanket quarantine policy introduced by Priti Patel, it has devised the traffic-light system, classifying each country as red, amber or green.

The rating is based on Joint Biosecurity Centre’s assessment of the level and trajectory of infection, and the reliability of data. Quarantine-free travel is allowed from nations rated amber and green.

But the system is meeting resistance from the devolved administrations, particularly Scotland. As a result quarantine will be suspended from the listed countries on 10 July – but initially only for travellers arriving in England.

The government statement said: “People arriving from selected destinations will be able to enter England without needing to self-isolate, unless they have been in or transited through non-exempt countries in the preceding 14 days.

“The devolved administrations will set out their own approach to exemptions, and so passengers returning to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should ensure they follow the laws and guidance which applies there.”

The Quash Quarantine group, which has campaigned against the blanket self-isolation policy, has welcomed the news.

Paul Charles, its spokesman, 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 will 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.

“The changed FCO travel advice will mean we can plan to go away from tomorrow.”

Mr Shapps warned that quarantine could be reintroduced if a spike in coronavirus cases occurs in one of the destination countries. He said: “We will not hesitate to move quickly to protect ourselves if infection rates rise in countries we are reconnecting with.”

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