The possibility of going abroad for a summer holiday this year has been ambitious at best, but Brits have now been given renewed hope thanks to the prospect of “air bridges”.
A new scheme could allow people in the UK to travel to other destinations that have a low coronavirus infection rate, without being forced into quarantine when they return.
What is an air bridge?
An ‘air bridge’ is simply a route between two countries where the outbreak of coronavirus is under control.
Such routes would allow tourists to travel freely between a number of approved countries, and avoid having to go into mandatory quarantine on either end.
Under current plans, any travellers who arrive in the UK are required to self-isolate for a period of 14 days - a prospect which may be off-putting for many who are thinking of going abroad.
However, if proposals for so-called air bridges are approved, the UK government could make agreements to allow travel without quarantine with countries who have low rates of infection.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Transport Minister Grant Shapps said: “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.”
Which destinations could allow air bridges?
The idea of air bridges would be to link the UK to countries which have a low coronavirus infection rate.
As such, British tourists could potentially be allowed to visit Greece and Portugal, which have both agreed to consider allowing access without a mandatory quarantine.
Both countries have a low number of coronavirus cases, meaning Brits would be at much lower risk of infection.
Air bridges linking the UK and the US are also being considered.
However, as the US has the highest coronavirus death toll in the world, it is unlikely travel would be considered safe any time soon.
Other countries around the world are also allowing travel bridges as well, with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania permitting free travel between one another, while Australia and New Zealand are considering similar measures.
When could air bridges be implemented?
At the moment, air bridges have not been confirmed to go ahead, with the government still considering whether to implement them.
An official spokesman for the Prime Minister said the option is “under consideration, but not agreed government policy”.
While lockdown restrictions are only just starting to be eased across the UK, it could be a measure that is introduced in the coming months, if infection rates continue to fall.
Scotland will conduct its next review of lockdown restrictions on 28 May.
Nicola Sturgeon said changes could be made “within days” of this review date, providing the country continues to make progress in its handling of the virus outbreak, meaning an easing of restrictions could begin from the end of May.
The UK government must review lockdown measures every three weeks, with the next update due to take place on 28 May.
Any amendments that are made are likely to be enforced in England a few days later, most likely on 1 June.
Northern Ireland outlined its five-phase plan for recovery on 12 May, but this does not have a firm timetable of when it will be complete.
Wales is to hold its next lockdown review at the same time as Scotland and England on 28 May, and will consider its policy on allowing people to meet people who do not live in their household outdoors.