The boss of Britain’s largest airport has welcomed the news that travellers arriving in England from around 72 countries and overseas territories will no longer need to self-isolate from two weeks as the UK recovers from its coronavirus pandemic.
The new rules, which include 58 foreign countries and 14 British Overseas Territories, apply to people arriving by air, sea or train to England. Passengers will still be required to provide contact information on arrival.
The easing of measures will come as a relief to those working in the travel and tourism sectors. The UK’s largest airport, Heathrow, which saw 80.8 million passengers pass through it last year, has been devastated by the pandemic. It saw passenger numbers plunge by 97 per cent in the second quarter of this year, compared with the same period last year.
Although the list of countries exempt from quarantine measures includes popular tourist hotspots such as France and Spain, there are many countries intentionally left off the list, including Brazil, Iran, Russia and the United States. Almost all of the countries excluded continue to be badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. There are also countries on the list – including Australia and New Zealand – that are not allowing travellers to come in.
Wales and Northern Ireland have adopted the same approach as the UK government but Scotland will still require travellers from Spain and some other countries on the English list to quarantine on arrival.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said data from the British government showed that the virus infects 330 per 100,000 people in Spain, compared with only 28 per 100,000 in Scotland. The Scottish list only includes 38 countries.
After the easing of measures, Heathrow's chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, said travellers from “important trading partners” such as the US shouldn’t have to quarantine on arrival. He said that although America was seen a high risk country nationally, there were areas of it that hadn’t been badly affected by the virus.
He added that coronavirus has dealt “a devastating blow” to the airline sector, leading to many job losses.
“Aviation is not just about people going on holiday from the UK, it is also about our vital trading routes from around the world and 40 per cent of the UK’s exports are flying from Heathrow,” he told Sky News.
“There are some important long-haul markets that aren’t included, places like Canada and Singapore, which are low risk, and we’d like to see those being included in the next review,” Mr Holland-Kaye added.
“We also need to think about how we are going to connect some of our really important trading partners such as the United States, which are high risk as a nation but some parts of the country are low risk.”
The British foreign office continues to advise against taking cruise holidays, after coronavirus outbreaks were found on ships off the coast of Japan and Central America.