Travellers may be exempt from a 14-day quarantine after returning from countries where the rate of coronavirus infection is “at least as good” as that in the UK, Boris Johnson has said.
The Prime Minister suggested that so-called “air bridges” to allow quarantine-free travel could be introduced from the end of next month, if agreements are reached with other countries.
The UK is to impose a 14-day quarantine requirement for anyone arriving in the country from June 8, but the rules will be reviewed every three weeks.
Appearing before the Commons Liaison Committee on Wednesday, Mr Johnson was asked about “air bridges” by Huw Merriman, the Tory chairman of the transport select committee.
He said: “Many people have commented that a sensible regime would look at the countries and their R rate and if it’s below ours, then there should be no need for quarantine.
“Whilst that may not be possible for June 8, will that be possible for the next three week period which is June 29, to allow those buying cheaper flights for their summer holidays, which have gone on sale today, to be removed from the threat of quarantine?”
Mr Johnson replied: “Yes, absolutely – we want to make sure we use the three-week reviews to be sensible – we want to drive the R down as fast as we can in this country and to have as sensible a quarantine scheme as possible and to keep flows as generous as we can.”
Asked what would have to change between now and June 29 for “air bridges” to be accepted, the PM said: “We will have to agree them with the other countries concerned but we will also have to make progress in tackling the disease, and we will have to have evidence that the other countries are in at least as good a position as we are.”
Mr Johnson was also asked during the session how quarantining people would not slow down the economic recovery from the pandemic.
The PM said: “I hope it will not retard the recovery of the economy by helping to prevent reinfection which could lead to a second outbreak and the R going over one again in such a way as to do serious economic damage, to necessitate another lockdown.”