Summer holiday hope as Greece offers to waive 14-day quarantine for UK tourists

Advertisement

Hope for summer holidays as Greece becomes first country to offer to waive 14-day quarantine for British tourists and travel firms say they still hope to run holidays from mid-June as minister says UK campsites could REOPEN later in the summer

  • Tourism minister, Harry Theoharis pushed for a quid-pro-quo deal with the UK
  • Offered to waive quarantine for Brits if we do the same for Greek visitors here
  • Ministers mull 'air bridges' to allow travellers to move between countries 
  • Therese Coffey also said UK camp sites could reopen as early as July 
  • Here's how to help people impacted by Covid-19

|

101

View
comments

Greece has offered to waive its 14-day coronavirus quarantine for British tourists and holiday firms are planning to restart flights from mid June in what could be a welcome boost for beleaguered lockdown Britain.

With the Mediterranean nation's under-pressure economy heavily dependent on holidaymakers it has been making plans to refill deserted beaches and hotels.

The country's tourism minister, Harry Theoharis said that it would waive its requirement for visitors if the same was done for Greeks arriving in the UK, speaking to the BBC.

It came as  ministers mull coronavirus 'air bridges' to allow travellers to move between countries without the need for quarantine once the outbreak is under control.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said a 'blanket' 14-day quarantine rule for arrivals will be introduced from next month.

But he disclosed that there are 'active discussions' going on over what countries could be exempted from the regime in future, referring to the idea of 'air bridges' - usually used to refer to military flights over enemy territory. 

Countries with lower infection levels, such as Australia, New Zealand and Greece, could potentially be excluded from the tough rules, which will be enforced by law. 

Tui, the largest travel firm in the UK has said it will restart holidays from June 14, with numbers ramped up from July - subject to travel restrictions being relaxed.

In further good news for holidaymakers, a senior minister revealed UK campsites could be allowed to reopen from July.

Asked about camping, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey told Sky:  'Having come from Suffolk down to London, I know there are a lot of campsites that are very keen for people to come. 

'Some of this is being carefully considered, recognising that we have a reduced outdoor transmission risk, that things like camping may well become suitable.

With the Mediterranean nation's under-pressure economy heavily dependent on holidaymakers it has been making plans to refill deserted beaches and hotels in popular tourist areas like Corfu (pictured)

Summer holiday hope as Greece offers to waive 14-day quarantine for UK tourists

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey told Sky: 'Recognising that we have a reduced outdoor transmission risk, that things like camping may well become suitable'

UK tourism firms facing GBP37bn coronavirus hit

UK tourism businesses could lose up to GBP15billion this year because of the coronavirus shutdown, an industry boss told MPs today.

Patricia Yates, acting chief executive at Visit Britain, said huge sums were likely to be lost both from international and domestic holidaymakers.

She told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee: 'Every time we do the modelling the figures get worse. So for inbound, I mean we were looking at the beginning of this year at about GBP26.6 billion coming from inbound tourism, we reckon a GBP15 billion drop on that.

'And for domestic, an industry that's normally worth about GBP80 billion, a GBP22 billion drop on that.

'And that's actually before we've factored in the quarantine because we don't clearly quite know what the measures are going to look like.'

She said while it would be the hope that domestic tourism this summer could pick up the slack and help alleviate some of the losses from the international sector, a 'lack of confidence' among people around travelling is a concern.

She said: 'You've got a collapse of the supply industry as well as collapse of demand and really to get British tourism up and running this summer, and the summer is hugely important, you're going to need that domestic audience. I think the worrying thing we see is the lack of confidence in the British public about travelling.'

She added: 'So there's a real job to be done there, given that it has to be the year of domestic tourism, there's a real job to be done there in convincing people that it's socially responsible to travel and enjoy a holiday.

And that it's safe to do so.'

'But that is a decision that still needs to be taken for later this year, potentially in July or even later in the year, recognising that we need to do all we can to keep that R rate below one, the number of infections down, and we need to be careful when we take those steps.'

But pushed by presenter Kay Burley about holidaying in France, she dampened hopes, saying: 'I know you like your holidays Kay,and quite right too, but I wouldn't plan any time soon on booking a holiday in the Dordogne.'

Patricia Yates, acting chief executive at Visit Britain, today said air bridges were an 'interesting' idea.

She told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee: 'It would be good to choose the countries that were valuable to us for inbound markets. 

'We have an international network, our American regional director is telling us sort of America is ready to go, American business is ready to go. 

'So, possibly, you know, an air bridge between the UK and America might be one that would be valuable to us.'

She said Visit Britain was already looking at stepping up marketing in Ireland, which will be exempt from the quarantine measures regarding international travel.

The most valuable markets are France, Germany, Italy, Spain and America when it comes to possible mutual arrangements such as air bridges with certain countries around quarantine, she said.

Earlier, Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary launched a savage attack on the government's plans for 14-day quarantine on arrivals to the UK.

The new rules are set dash hopes of summer holidays for most of the summer, as exemptions are largely limited to lorry drivers.

However, Mr O'Leary dismissed claims it will prevent his aim of resuming flights in July, saying he believes the policy is so 'defective' and impossible to enforce that the public will merely ignore it.

He insisted the government is 'making stuff up as they go along' and face masks are the best way to protect the travelling public - despite many scientists saying they are of limited benefit.    

Summer holiday hope as Greece offers to waive 14-day quarantine for UK tourists

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told MPs a 'blanket' 14-day quarantine rule for arrivales will be introduced from next month

Summer holiday hope as Greece offers to waive 14-day quarantine for UK tourists

Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary (file picture) today launched a savage attack on the government's plans for 14-day quarantine on arrivals to the UK

Summer holiday hope as Greece offers to waive 14-day quarantine for UK tourists

All arrivals at airports will face 14-day quarantine under the government's proposals

Summer holiday hope as Greece offers to waive 14-day quarantine for UK tourists Summer holiday hope as Greece offers to waive 14-day quarantine for UK tourists Summer holiday hope as Greece offers to waive 14-day quarantine for UK tourists

The latest slides released by the government tonight showing the UK's coronavirus status

Loss of smell and taste is FINALLY classed as coronavirus symptom 

People should self-isolate if they lose their sense of taste or smell because it is a definite symptom of coronavirus, the government has announced today.

Anosmia, the clinical name for a change in smell or taste sense, has become the third symptom of the coronavirus that will be officially recognised by the NHS.

Until now, people were only advised that they might have the virus if they had a fever or a new continuous cough.

But scientists working for the government have now decided there is enough evidence to add anosmia to the list.

Prof Tim Spector, head of the department of genetic epidemiology and leader of the Covid symptom study app at King's College London, said 50,000 to 70,000 people in the UK with Covid-19 were currently not being told to self-isolate even though they had the virus.

He blamed Public Health England (PHE) and the wider strategy, saying an insistence that only fever and cough were the major symptoms was missing thousands of cases.

Until now, the NHS 111 coronavirus symptom checker has listed high temperature and cough as the symptoms of Covid-19.

Prof Van-Tam said on April 3 that the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) had looked at the issue and concluded loss of smell or taste should not be added to the symptom list.

But in the same month, ENT UK, the professional membership body representing ear, nose and throat surgery in the UK, published guidance to patients saying it believed loss of smell and loss of taste were symptoms of coronavirus and that it had shared these details with PHE.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) listed loss of smell and taste as 'less common symptoms' several weeks ago and other countries, including the US, added the symptom.

Mr Shapps has insisted quarantine measures from early June will be a 'blanket situation' for other countries initially but could be then eased for those with low Covid-19 infection rates.

Huw Merriman, Conservative chairman of the Transport Committee, asked in the Commons: 'If he will consider air bridges so that those entering the UK from countries where the infection rate is below the rate of one would not be subject to quarantine?

'This will boost confidence in aviation travel and target safety where it's most needed.'

Mr Shapps replied: 'Final details of the quarantine scheme will be released soon, come in early next month.

'It is the case we should consider further improvements - for example, things like air bridges enabling people from other countries who have themselves achieved lower levels of coronavirus infection to come to the country.

'So, those are active discussions but will go beyond what will initially be a blanket situation.' 

It is understood that hauliers will make up two thirds of those not required to self-isolate for two weeks. 

The rest are expected to include people who 'work supporting national security or critical infrastructure and to meet the UK's international obligations', officials said. 

Scientists researching coronavirus may also be exempt. Last week Downing Street denied that travellers from France would be excluded, despite previously suggesting that was an option. 

Ireland will not be covered by the rules due to the Common Travel Area's role in the Northern Ireland Peace Process.

But Mr O'Leary told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the plans are 'unimplementable, unmanageable and unpoliceable'. 

'People will simply ignore something that is so hopelessly defective... Let's have some effective measures like face masks,' he said. 

'All you get back out of the UK government is ''we don't know''.' 

'It's laughable that this government can come up with any plans for a quarantine that would be strict and fully enforced... 

'It's idiotic and it's un-implementable. You don't have enough police in the UK.'

He added: 'Two-week lockdown has no medical or scientific basis to it in any event.

If you want to do something that's effective, wear masks.' 

Mr O'Leary said the policy had 'no credibility' and predicted that it would be axed by June.  

What is an air bridge? 

An 'air bridge' is typically used by the military to reach and supply territory across enemy lines.

One of the largest in history was used for the Berlin airlift after the Second World War.

That kept the Western-held area supplied between June 1948 and May 1949 when it was cut off by Soviet forces. 

Another famous air bridge was 'The Hump', which was the route over the Himalayas from India to resupply Chinese forces working with the Allies. 

He insisted research had suggested face masks could reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection by 98.5 per cent.

He told Sky News the government is 'making stuff up as they go along'. 

'I think they are frankly just making stuff up as they go along,' he said. 'They are stumbling along grabbing whatever they think will make a headline.

There is no scientific or medical basis for a 14-day isolation for air passengers when you are not applying that equally to London Underground or London commuter train passengers.' 

Virgin Atlantic appeared to back Mr O'Leary's comments and called for a 'multi-layered approach' of targeted measures to successfully restart flights.

The statement released today said: 'The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a devasting loss of life and livelihood for so many around the world and the UK. 

'The safety and security of our people and our customers is our always our top priority and public health must come first.

However, by introducing a mandatory 14 day self-isolation for every single traveller entering the UK, the Government is taking an approach that will likely prevent flights from resuming. 

'We are continually reviewing our flying programme, however with these restrictions, there simply won't be sufficient demand to warrant flying and we are unlikely to resume passenger services before August at the earliest.

Summer holiday hope as Greece offers to waive 14-day quarantine for UK tourists

Oliver Dowden said quarantine rules for people travelling to the UK will be enforced by law

Summer holiday hope as Greece offers to waive 14-day quarantine for UK tourists

Lorry drivers are expected to make up the bulk of people exempted from quarantine rules when travelling to other countries (stock photo)

'We know that as the Covid-19 crisis subsides, air travel will be a vital enabler of the UK's economic recovery. 

'Therefore, we are calling for a multi-layered approach of carefully targeted measures, which will allow for a successful restart of international air travel for passengers and businesses, while mitigating health risks.' 

The Association of UK Airlines, the trade body for the industry added that if the government does push ahead with the 14-day quarantine plan then  strict rolling reviews need to be in place.

Tell councils to reopen car parks and public toilets, says government expert

Ministers must order councils to reopen public toilets and car parks and stop 'terrorising' those who want to visit beauty spots, a government adviser said today.

Professor Robert Dingwall, who sits on the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, said the risk outdoors was 'minimal' and people did not need to be so anxious.

The government eased draconian limits on exercise last week, with Boris Johnson saying the public is free to drive distances and enjoy public spaces as many times a day as they want. 

However, tourist boards have joined local authorities in saying visitors should stay away from beauty spots and seaside resorts.

Weston-super-Mare has changed its slogan from 'Visit Weston' to 'Don't Visit Weston'

A spokesman said: 'Airlines are not going to operate if people are effectively told not to travel and that is going to do a lot of damage both to our tourism industry and businesses who rely on aviation for their supply chains and exports.

'If the Government does insist on doing this, with minimal exemptions in place, we need strict rolling reviews to be enforced so that this policy is not in place a second longer than it needs to be.'

Mr Dowden said quarantine rules for people travelling to the UK will be enforced by law.

He told Today: 'We would look at the relevant enforcement mechanisms just as we have done with other measures.

'So for example, the measures that we took when we introduced the so-called lockdown - those were underpinned by regulations which had consequences in law, and I'm sure we'll do the same thing.'

He said there would be 'very limited' exemptions to the rules.

John Holland-Kaye, the boss of Heathrow, raised hopes of looser rules yesterday, telling Sky News: 'If two countries are at very low risk of having transmission within each country, there should be a free flow of passengers. 

'But if a country has very high risk with rising infection rates and poor controls, then there would be very tight controls on anyone accessing the UK from those markets. 

Meanwhile, a government adviser has urged ministers to make councils reopen public toilets and car parks, and stop 'terrorising' those who want to visit beauty spots.

Professor Robert Dingwall, who sits on the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, said the risk outdoors was 'minimal' and people did not need to be so anxious.

The government eased draconian limits on exercise last week, with Boris Johnson saying the public is free to drive distances and enjoy public spaces as many times a day as they want. 

However, tourist boards have joined local authorities in saying visitors should stay away from beauty spots and seaside resorts.

Weston-super-Mare has changed its slogan from 'Visit Weston' to 'Don't Visit Weston'

Advertisement

You may also like...