Britain considering 'air bridges' with low-risk countries

LONDON • Britain confirmed on Tuesday that it was looking at es-tablishing “air bridges” with countries with low coronavirus rates, exempting them from controversial quarantine measures.

Under a plan announced last month to try to limit the spread of Covid-19, international arrivals from Monday will be required to self-isolate for a fortnight.

Ireland is currently the only country with an exemption, and business leaders have condemned the blanket approach.

“These measures will be reviewed every few weeks,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in a statement. “And we are working with the transport industry to see how we can introduce agreements with other countries when safe to do so, so we can go abroad and tourists can come here.”

These “would remove self-isolation measures and safely open up routes to and from countries with low transmission rates”.

The authorities in England will carry out spot checks on those self-isolating, and breaches of the rules could be punished by a £1,000 (S$1,700) fine or prosecution.

Britain is among the countries worst-hit by the virus, with 39,369 deaths from 277,985 cases, according to official figures on Tuesday.

Britain’s quarantine is crucial to avoiding a second wave of Covid-19 in the country, Interior Minister Priti Patel and Mr Shapps said. “From Monday, people arriving in the United Kingdom will need to self-isolate for 14 days,” the ministers wrote in The Telegraph newspaper on Tuesday.

All international arrivals, including returning Britons, will have to self-isolate for 14 days and provide details of where they will be staying under the plans, which were criticised by airlines, business groups and politicians alike when they were announced.

The ministers said Covid-19 tests or rapid temperature tests were not effective, as infected passengers may not have any symptoms and tests may also not work where a passenger may have only just caught the virus.

“Which is why it is right that we ask those who are travelling to our country to follow the measures that our own citizens are undertaking to continue to stop the spread of the virus,” Ms Patel and Mr Shapps said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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