LONDON - Air bridges will be available from next week to allow Britons to take holidays in other countries without quarantining for 14 days, it has been reported.
The Government will finalise agreements in coming days to allow people to travel from the UK to a small number of countries including Spain, France and Greece, according to reporting by The Times, The Sun and The Daily Telegraph.
The news follows Transport Secretary Grant Shapps indicating air bridges would only be agreed with countries which have a coronavirus test and trace system at the same standard as that used in Britain.
Mr Shapps told the Commons Transport Select Committee there would be an announcement about air bridges on Monday, but the Telegraph reported the unveiling would take place at the weekend.
Asked what "key considerations" formed the negotiations, Mr Shapps said the ability of a country to alert people if they have been in contact with a person who has coronavirus is one of the factors.
Outlining the questions being asked by UK officials, he said: "Do they have something equivalent to our NHS Test and Trace system? The Test and Trace system is enormous here now. We've got the capacity to test far more than is immediately required but that would allow for any uplift anywhere.
“I know there's a lot of arguments about what we should have been doing at the beginning”, said Grant Shapps. "Does the country we're talking to have that kind of capability?"
He said another issue being considered is the level and trajectory of the disease in a destination.
Mr Shapps added that introducing air bridges is a "massive priority", saying: "I understand entirely the pain that aviation is going through. I know both for airports, for airlines and actually for ground handlers as well, this coronavirus has been a complete disaster."
There were mixed reports on Thursday over whether Portugal would be included in the UK's plans after a spike in coronavirus cases in the country.
Since June 8, all passengers – bar a handful of exemptions – have been required to go into self-isolation for 14 days when they arrive in the UK.
People who fail to comply can be fined £1,000 in England, and police are allowed to use "reasonable force" to make sure they follow the rules.