Bermuda was listed on a list of 45 countries to prioritise for quarantine-free “air bridges” this weekend, as commercial airlines call for top holiday destinations to be spared the 14-day quarantine rule amid mounting fury over the UK’s controversial plan.
Mail Online reports the 45-nation list was agreed to by British Airways, Easyjet and Virgin Atlantic and countries such as France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece were included, along with the US and much of the Caribbean.
Tory MPs told of growing “horror” for blanket UK quarantine on visitors, the report added.
“Airlines drew up the index last week at the request of the Government amid mounting fury over ‘unenforceable’ plans for a 14-day quarantine imposed on all arrivals.
“Tory backbenchers said there was growing ‘horror’ at plans to subject visitors to the UK to blanket quarantine measures.
A senior Tory said the plans did not have the support of “very large parts of the Cabinet”, adding: “There was a case for it in March, but there isn’t a case for it now.”
Officials are drawing up proposals which could allow quarantine-free travel to places chosen for popularity and economic importance.
“The blanket quarantine, which comes into force next Monday, has been criticised by Border Force, police leaders and Tory MPs who say it is riddled with loopholes.
“Whitehall sources say the Home Office and Department for Transport are moving ‘at pace’ to establish quarantine-free travel corridors between countries.”
An industry source told the Mail: “A lot of [the list] is focused on short-haul leisure – popular holiday locations and places where people might fly to see friends and family. We’d want to see as many as possible set up by the end of the month.
“The Government requested the airlines send it in, so they could have a sense of where the volume and demand would be. It’s quite a contrast to a week and a half ago, when Downing Street played down the idea of air bridges.’ They added the proposed list depends on countries wanting to set up an air bridge with the UK and the Foreign Office will have to drop its advice against all but essential global travel.”
Details of the quarantine plan will be unveiled this week.
Sir Graham Brady – chairman of the 1922 committee of backbenchers – told Downing Street of their concerns.
“The fundamental objection to the quarantine proposal is that it makes no sense at all to have quarantine for travel from countries that have very low rates of infection or no infection,” he said.
“At the very least, it should be possible to exclude a number of countries on that basis. Air bridges are a very sensible proposition.”
One senior Tory said: “I share concerns the quarantine plan will do such huge damage to the tourism industry, without necessarily making us much safer. It feels that it’s a bit too late and a bit strong.”
An ex-minister added: “There is growing horror on the backbench about this. It’s several weeks since it first arose that the Government was considering quarantine and we are no further forward as to how it actually gets introduced.”
Henry Smith, Tory MP and chairman of the Future of Aviation Group, said: “I don’t think quarantine is appropriate to be introduced in just over a week’s time. It will prolong damage to the aviation and travel industries. It’s well intentioned but not very effective so the idea of air bridges has merit and is worthy of exploration.”
“The Government must be working towards an approach which can ensure public health requirements are met while allowing the industry to get back to doing what it does best – connecting goods and people and creating jobs.”
The report concluded: “There is not a second to lose.”