Portugal hints 'air bridge' with UK could be in place by July

Brits ‘can holiday in Portugal by NEXT MONTH’: Portuguese foreign minister hints ‘air bridge’ could be in place by July but country is one of only two popular holiday destinations with HIGHER infection rates than UK

  • 14 day quarantine plans for travellers arriving in UK to be imposed from June 8  
  • Aviation and tourism industries fear the restrictions will damage recovery hopes 
  • Boris Johnson exploring possibility of setting up ‘air bridges’ to some countries 
  • Would allow travellers to go to countries and come back without quarantine
  • Portugal foreign minister said he is in talks with UK to strike deal for his country 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Britons could soon be able to go on holiday to Portugal without having to quarantine for 14 days when they come back under plans to create ‘air bridges’ to tourist destinations. 

The Government’s new quarantine rules are due to be imposed from June 8 and they will see everyone arriving in the UK told to self-isolate for two weeks with unlimited fines for those who break the rules. 

The tourism and aviation sectors fear the measures brought forward by Home Secretary Priti Patel will severely hamper economic recovery hopes. 

Boris Johnson is believed to be in favour of setting up ‘air bridges’ with countries with low coronavirus infection rates so Brits can still go abroad for a summer holiday in the coming months. 

And the hopes of a return for summer breaks received a boost this morning as Portugal’s foreign minister revealed his country is in talk with UK ministers to find a way for tourists to be made exempt from quarantine. 

Augusto Santos Silva told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that ‘quarantine is an enemy of tourism’ as he hinted trips to Portugal could be possible by next month. 

‘During these weeks our diplomats will work together in order to guarantee that British tourists coming to Portugal would not be subjected on their return to England to any kind of quarantine,’ he said. 

Home Secretary Priti Patel’s quarantine plans will see travellers arriving in the UK told to self-isolate for 14 days

How UK coronavirus cases compare to 15 popular holiday destinations for Britons  

Tourism bosses and MPs have discussed air bridges to popular tourist destinations and countries who send large numbers of tourist to the UK.

Here is how the UK’s coronavoirus cases compare to popular nations. The figures are the daily confirmed cases of coronavirus per million people for each country, as of June 1.

UK – 28.52

SPAIN – 4.30

FRANCE – 3.94

ITALY – 5.87

USA – 59.84

GREECE – 0.19

PORTUGAL – 29.13

NETHERLANDS – 10.80

TURKEY – 9.85

IRELAND – 12.35

GERMANY – 3.98

BELGIUM – 16.82

MEXICO – 24.45

MOROCCO – 0.73

AUSTRALIA – 0.39

NEW ZEALAND – 0

Mr Johnson is thought to be in favour of establishing such routes with a Downing Street source saying: ‘We will be guided by the science, but the PM does not want to be standing in the way of people’s holidays unnecessarily.’ 

Ms Patel has said the quarantine plans are needed to stop importing new cases of coronavirus from abroad as the domestic rate of transmission continues to fall. 

But a blanket quarantine policy will effectively make summer holidays impossible for most people.  

Ministers are believed to be looking at setting up ‘air bridges’ with tourist destinations with smaller outbreaks than the UK. 

But that could prove a significant hurdle for Portugal with the country one of only two popular UK holiday destinations, along with the US, which has a higher infection rate per million people than Britain.  

The likes of France, Spain, Greece and Italy all have drastically lower infection rates than the UK. 

Italy has now begun to allow people to travel in, out and around the country for the first time in around three months. 

The data is sure to fuel the anger of opponents of the quarantine, after some 124 chief executive and owners of businesses worth a combined £5billion said they expect to make up to 60 per cent of their staff redundant if Ms Patel’s scheme goes ahead.

As well as the possibility of setting up ‘air bridges’ ministers are also believed to be looking at whether to test travellers on their arrival in the UK – removing the need for automatic self-isolation. 

The 14-day quarantine scheme will be reviewed every three weeks, with the first likely to take place on June 29. 

Depending on the outcome of that review the restrictions could be eased on a country-by-country basis.   

The full details of the quarantine plans were expected to be revealed to MPs yesterday. 

But Downing Street confirmed that Ms Patel is now expected to unveil them later today, fuelling suggestions that some sort of compromise could be on the cards.

Most people arriving in the UK from next Monday will be told to self-isolate for 14 days in an attempt to prevent coronavirus cases being introduced from overseas.

A £1,000 fixed penalty notice in England will be levied on those failing to adhere to the quarantine, with prosecution and an unlimited fine potentially to follow.

There is widespread concern that the measure will cause further damage to UK travel and tourism businesses, which have been badly hit by the pandemic. 

Ms Patel has insisted avoiding a second peak of coronavirus ‘will always be our top priority’ and insisted the restrictions on arrivals ‘are informed by science, backed by the public and will keep us all safe’.  

From Monday, people coming into the UK from abroad will have to quarantine for 14 days to stop the spread of coronavirus

A police officer talking to beach-goers in Italy. The UK has more cases of coronavirus per million people than most of the 15 most popular holiday destinations for Britons – including Italy

A couple hug each other at Misericordia beach in Malaga. Spain has a far lower level of coronavirus infection rate than the UK

EasyJet, Ryanair and British Airways are among the airlines which have announced plans to ramp up their operations next month, despite the Foreign and Commonwealth Office currently advising against non-essential foreign travel.

Health minister Edward Argar said he hoped people would be able to go on holiday this year.

He told the BBC: ‘I’m not going to say a particular date on when that might happen because we will have to be guided by how the disease behaves, controlling any risk of a second wave and controlling the disease.

‘I hope that people will be able to go on holiday at some point this year, but I can’t make that promise and because I have to be cautious and go with the science and I don’t have that forward view yet of how a second wave or otherwise might behave.’

Mr Johnson has been told to drop the plans to avoid a ‘catastrophic’ hammer blow to the tourism and hospitality industries. 

Tory MPs have branded the curbs ‘ridiculous’ and ‘pointless’ after it emerged people will be allowed to pop out for food, only a fifth face spot checks, and officials will not be allowed to enter their homes. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said yesterday he was growing ‘more optimistic’ about the prospect of Britons taking holidays abroad this year.  

Despite the potential news of a relaxation of the quarantine rules later in the month, the Home Secretary intends to push full steam ahead with the unveiling of the plan later today. 

Just 23 people used Gatwick Airport in an entire day last week – down from its pre-covid average of 45,000

Ms Patel is expected to warn rebellious Conservative MPs that their opposition to the quarantine plan risks alienating the public and throwing away the country’s progress in tackling coronavirus. 

She will also say that the government ‘owes’ it to all victims of the disease to do what it can to avoid a second peak.    

MPs are urging the Government to rethink the proposals. Tory MP Henry Smith, whose Crawley constituency covers Gatwick, said low passengers at the airport last week highlighted the scale of the problem.   

He said: ‘It’s well-intentioned but it hasn’t been thought through.

‘It sounds good, to stop people at the borders so we don’t get re-infections of Covid-19. But I don’t think it is going to be a benefit to public health and will prolong the economic damage.’

Travel industry experts say quarantine will cost Britain’s tourism sector as much as £15billion if it is maintained throughout the summer.

Can Britons head off to their favourite destinations on holiday this summer?

France 

How many British visitors each year? 8.5million 

Can you visit? No. Its borders are closed to all tourists until June 15 at the earliest. Any foreigner arriving, including Britons, must go into 14-day quarantine.  

Is there anything open? Thousands of Britons have second homes in France. Hotels, B&Bs, campsites and gites open for French citizens from June 3. Cafes and restaurants are also open – but in Paris only ones with outside space can serve customers.   

Italy 

How many British visitors each year? 4.3million 

Can you visit?  Yes. Its borders open from today and there is no mandatory quarantining at all.

Is there anything open? Hotels are slowly opening from today while all campsites are now up and running. Beaches are open with social distancing and bars and restaurants are serving.  

Spain 

How many British visitors each year? 15.6million

Can you visit? No. Spain will open its borders from July 1. There is no quarantine planned but Britain is currently not on its list of agreed visitors because its coronavirus infection and death rates ‘still have to improve’. 

Is there anything open? Yes, but still limited options. Beaches are reopening with strict capacity numbers. Many hotels, restaurants and bars remain closed but are slowly reopening to be ready for the end of the month. 

Portugal 

How many British visitors each year? 2.8million

Can you visit? No, but probably soon. Borders are open but not currently to Britain. Although the two Governments are expected to agree an ‘air bridge’ meaning citizens can travel between the two nations with no quarantine. 

Is there anything open? Yes. Most hotels, B&Bs and campsites are expected to be open in the next fortnight. Beaches are fully open from the weekend onwards.  Golf courses are opening too.

United States 

How many British visitors each year? 3.9million

Can you visit? No. President Trump banned all EU visitors in mid-March but has said he soon will ‘start to open up’ to Europeans soon. There are still commercial flights between the UK and US.

Is there anything open? New York lockdown is not expected to ease until next week at the earliest – but on the west coast beaches, restaurants and beauty spots are opening. Restrictions vary from state to state.

Greece 

How many British visitors each year? 2.4million

Can you visit? No. Tourists are banned until mid-June. Border guards will test people arriving from high risk destinations. Mandatory quarantine of seven days is required. And the Greek Government has already said it will not accept flights from 13 UK airports, excluding Heathrow. 

Is there anything open? Yes. Hotels, tavernas and bars are open but with restrictions on numbers. Beaches are free to use and ferries still run between islands.  

Australia 

How many British visitors each year? 493,000

Can you visit? No. Only Australian citizens can enter – and they must go into quarantine for two weeks. There are plans to run an air corridor with neighbouring New Zealand from the Autumn.

Is there anything open? Yes. Restaurants and bars can operate with a maximum of 50 people. Pubs are open to diners not drinkers. Some, but not all, beaches are open.  

New Zealand 

How many British visitors each year? 128,000

Can you visit? Only NZ citizens can jet in – and as in Australia they must quarantine for 14 days on arrival. They will probably reopen an air corridor with Australia and Pacific islands from September.  

Is there anything open? As cases plummet, social distancing could end as early as next week – but gatherings will not exceed 100 people. Most businesses, including hotels, are now open.

United Arab Emirates

How many British visitors each year? 1.4million

Can you visit? No. But tourists could be allowed back in from July 1. A 14-day quarantine is likely. 

Is there anything open? Yes. Hotels, beaches, shopping centres and parks opened in May but face masks are mandatory. 

South Africa 

How many British visitors each year? 440,000 visits a year 

Can you visit? No. The South African borders are closed to all visitors. Experts believe this will remain in place until February 2021 with South Africans not allowed to holiday in the country themselves until Christmas. 

Is there anything open? No. Wildlife and safari parks, beaches, beauty spots and restaurants are all shut. 

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