Summer holiday hopes face ruin as minister says quarantine will be introduced without 'air bridge'

Cat Neilan
Holidaymakers have been told they must consider the impact that quarantine would have on their time off work - Kirsty O'Connor/PA
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People's hopes of holidays abroad this summer have been dealt a blow after a Government minister said quarantine measures would be imposed without an "air bridge" connecting the UK to other destinations. 

The "air bridge" idea – proposed by Grant Shapps on Monday as a way of exempting some countries from the two-week UK quarantine coming into force on June 8 – had been seized on by the tourism industry and those hoping to be able to take a summer break overseas. 

But Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland Secretary, told Sky News : "We keep these things under review, but there are no plans for an 'air bridge' at the moment."

Mr Lewis said the Government was continuing to "look at a wide range of things" that were appropriate "for the health of people of the UK and our visitors". 

Departments including the Home Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office are said to be furious with Mr Shapps for having "freelanced" the idea, which they consider to be unworkable.

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Mr Lewis also confirmed The Telegraph's story that spot checks would be imposed on all travellers entering the UK as part of new quarantine measures. He declined to go into details, but told BBC Breakfast it was "part of our plans" and would be reviewed every three weeks. 

He said holidaymakers must consider the impact that quarantine would have on their time off work, adding: "The reality is we are saying to people that if you are going abroad, you will have to look at the fact that you may well need to do quarantine when you come back."

But the Government has been criticised for failing to deploy quarantine measures sooner, with the former Border Force boss telling MPs ministers had acted "too late" 

Tony Smith, now the chairman of the International Border Management and Technologies Association, told the home affairs committee: "I was surprised that we hadn't seen earlier measures introduced at the UK border. 

"The normal response is that there would be a significant introduction of public health into the ports and borders. That is what we would normally expect.

I'm not sure that is what has happened. I think we have very much, and maybe rightly, diverted our attention away from our borders and into the country, to focus upon the health and safety of our indigenous population – which is perfectly understandable.

"But I think we may have been able to introduce more incremental steps in other ways that might have reduced the transmission from abroad and I'm afraid, by the time we actually did get round to doing that, it was too late because the virus was already rife in the population."

Virgin Atlantic has said a blanket 14-day quarantine – described as "idiotic" by the Ryanair chief executive, Michael O'Leary – will "prevent flights from resuming" until at least August, warning that it will further dampen demand. 

"We are calling for a multi-layered approach of carefully targeted public health and screening measures which will allow for a successful and safe restart of international air travel for passengers and businesses," a spokesman said.