UK tourism boss backs call for ‘air bridges’
The boss of the UK’s national tourism agency has thrown her weight behind setting up so-called air bridges with countries with low coronavirus rates.
Visit Britain chief executive Patricia Yates told MPs it was an “interesting” idea and indicated the US could be open to agreeing a deal. Air bridges would allow visitors from low-risk countries into the UK without having to quarantine for 14 days.
A government spokesperson said air bridges were “not an agreed policy.”
He said: “Work on this is continuing… ultimately we will be guided by the science and the health of the public must come first.”
Transport secretary Grant Shapps suggested on Monday that the government’s plan to quarantine people arriving in the UK for two weeks could include exceptions.
He said: “We should indeed 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,”
Ms Yates told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee that the US may be interested in reopening travel links with the UK.
“Our American regional director is telling us sort of America is ready to go, American business is ready to go. So, possibly, an air bridge between the UK and America might be one that would be valuable to us.”
She added that other valuable markets for mutual arrangements also include France, Germany and Italy.
Airlines have objected to the government’s 14 day quarantine plan which they say will put people off from travelling.
Mr Shapps said the quarantine measure, which is set to “come in early next month”, would initially be a “blanket situation”.
But he said the government was in “active discussions” about other options.
Number 10 said the two week quarantine measure would be reviewed every three weeks once it is introduced. But Airlines UK, which represents the industry, said reviews need to be done on a more regular basis.
“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,” it said.