England’s coronavirus quarantine rules for more than 50 countries including Germany, France, Spain and Italy is to end, the British government said on Friday, allowing millions of holidaymakers to head to Europe’s beaches for a summer break.
From July 10 passengers visiting places viewed as low risk will not need to self-isolate when they return, while those from higher risk countries will have to quarantine for 14-days under a rule which has infuriated airlines and the travel industry.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has struggled to scrap the rules and has so far failed to convince the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to immediately follow suit.
“There will be a list of 50 plus countries and if you add in the overseas territories, 60 something or other that we will publish later today,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said.
“Today marks the next step in carefully reopening our great nation,” he said.
The full list has not yet been published by the government which has been debating for days how to lift the quarantine. New Zealand is included in the list as are the Vatican and Britain’s overseas territories such as the Falkland Islands and Gibraltar.
Britain’s foreign ministry will also set out exemptions from its global advisory against “all but essential” international travel from July 4, a key to normal insurance being valid.
The government said it expected countries included on the quarantine-free list for England would reciprocate by relaxing their own travel restrictions.
The move to ditch the quarantine comes as England’s High Court is due start hearing a legal challenge by British Airways, a move backed by low-cost rivals Ryanair and easyJet.
All the airlines as well as others in the travel sector have announced thousands of job losses as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and had said the quarantine had no scientific basis and was unworkable in practice.
Britain said it would still require all travellers, except those from the exempted countries, to provide their contact information including their travel history on arrival. People who have been in or transited through non-exempt countries will still have to self isolate for 14 days.
England and Northern Ireland will reopen pubs this weekend, signalling a gradual reopening of its economy. Scotland will allow pubs to reopen fully later in July. Wales will allow pubs to serve outside on July 13.
But Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned people to maintain social distancing rules and is expected to repeat that caution at a news conference on Friday.
“Anyone who flouts social distancing and COVID-Secure rules is not only putting us all at risk but letting down those businesses and workers who have done so much to prepare for this new normal,” he will say.