Passengers arriving from certain destinations will no longer need to self-isolate when arriving in England transport secretary, Grant Shapps, has confirmed.
A full list of countries has now been published, including popular destinations Spain, Germany, France and Greece.
Ireland is already exempt as part of the common travel area, as are the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.
Portugal and the United States, however, are not currently considered safe.
The new measures will come into force from July 10th, meaning travellers arriving the selected destinations will be able to enter England without needing to self-isolate.
That is unless they have been in or transited through non-exempt countries in the preceding 14 days.
Trade body ABTA welcomed the belated decision.
A spokesperson said: “The government announcement today will be greeted with huge relief by the travel industry, which can now plan ahead and take summer holiday bookings.
“Travel businesses have been under enormous pressure since the start of the pandemic, and the industry can now start to meet customers’ pent-up appetite for travel.
“Getting the balance of health risk and economic risk is a difficult challenge, and we strongly support the government in taking this initiative.”
A risk assessment has been conducted by the Joint Biosecurity Centre, in close consultation with Public Health England and the chief medical officer, Shapps explained.
The assessment draws on a range of factors including the prevalence of coronavirus, the numbers of new cases and potential trajectory of the disease in that destination.
All passengers, except those on a list of exemptions, will still be required to provide contact information on arrival in the UK.
The expectation is that a number of the exempted countries will also not require arrivals from the UK to self-isolate – though this remains to be confirmed.
This will mean that holidaymakers travelling to and from certain destinations will not need to self-isolate on either leg of their journey.
The exempted countries and territories will be kept under constant review, so that if the health risks increase self-isolation measures can be re-introduced to help stop the spread of the disease into England.
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office is also expected to update its global advisory against ‘all but essential’ international travel to exempt certain destinations that no longer pose an unacceptably high risk of Covid-19.
Shapps said: “Today marks the next step in carefully reopening our great nation.
“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.
“The entire nation has worked tirelessly to get to this stage; therefore safety must remain our watch word and we will not hesitate to move quickly to protect ourselves if infection rates rise in countries we are reconnecting with.”
He added: “Travel advice is based on an assessment of a range of factors that could present risks to British nationals when abroad, using different criteria to the list of countries exempted from self-isolation measures.
“It is based on a range of factors including epidemiological risks, capacity of local healthcare systems, transport options and law and order.
“These FCO travel advice exemptions will come into effect on July 4th and will be kept under review.”
The exemptions from self-isolation apply to all modes of international transport, including sea and international rail routes as well as flights.
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.
Dale Keller, chief executive of BAR UK welcomed the move.
He said: “The list of exempted countries is what everyone is eagerly waiting for and what we need is clear and concise requirements following a period of short notice interventions that were often drip fed through to the industry and public.
“Lifting quarantine and revising the FCO travel advice, combined with the enhanced health measures employed throughout the passenger journey, is finally allowing the airline industry to safely welcome back passengers with their wellbeing and confidence as our top priorities.”
He added: “This week the EU issued its own list recommending the lifting of travel restrictions from over 40 member states and third countries and we believe that there is no reason the whole of the UK should not reopen to at least that number of initial countries given the multi-layered risk mitigation measures now in place.
“Every day that overseas markets are closed is costing the UK heavily in lost jobs, collapsing trade and negative social impacts, and we urge the UK government to continually review and expand the list countries as soon as the criteria is met.”
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