Back in May, Baltic states Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia opened their borders to each other, creating Europe’s first pandemic “travel bubble,” also known as an “air bridge.”
Since then, various countries around the world have expressed an interest in creating their own bubbles, including Fiji, Australia and New Zealand.
Now it appears the United Kingdom is following suit.
While there’s been no official confirmation as yet, numerous reports suggest the UK is set to lift its ban on nonessential travel and establish bridges with a number of different countries, including France, Greece, Italy and Spain. An announcement is anticipated in the coming few days.
The move, which is expected to come into effect on July 4, will mean travelers from the named countries can travel to the UK without going into quarantine, and the same will apply to UK travelers heading to these destinations.
It’s based on the notion that countries with similar R rates – determined by the amount of people that each person with coronavirus goes on to infect – can be linked up without harming either.
At present, all visitors to the UK are required to self-isolate for a 14-day period, and those who break the rules are subject to fines of up to $1,218.
Paul Charles, a member of Quash Quarantine, a campaign group lobbying the UK Government to drop the 14-day quarantine, describes the guidelines as “unworkable and unenforceable.”
He welcomes the move to implement travel corridors, stressing their importance in helping to get the travel economy moving again.
“A lot of jobs have gone in the last few weeks as people haven’t been able to book holidays because they’ve been fearful of quarantine,” Charles tells CNN Travel. “So, quarantine itself has acted as a block to future bookings.
“As soon as the UK government signals officially that corridors will happen from July 4, it will make a significant difference to bookings.
“Consumers need certainty and the industry needs clarity. So hopefully this will give a green light to people to be able to book with certainty and reassurance.”
While Greece has reopened its borders to a number of different countries, including Italy, Spain and the Netherlands, travelers from the UK are not currently permitted to enter the Mediterranean destination.
As for Italy, travelers from the EU, along with the UK and the microstates and principalities of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican, have been allowed to enter the country without going into quarantine since June 3, in a decision its government has described as a “calculated risk.”
Fear of booking
Meanwhile entry into France remains restricted for all nonessential travel from outside the Schengen Zone (a grouping of 26 countries that normally have open borders) and travelers who are allowed to visit must present an Attestation de déplacement internationale (international travel certificate).
However, Spain recently lifted restrictions for EU countries, apart from Portugal, and dropped its 14-day quarantine requirement for British travelers.
Portugal is currently expected to be absent from the UK’s air bridge list, although the land border between the country and Spain will reopen on July 1.
“Portugal may still be included,” adds Charles. “You can simply fly to Madrid and then drive across the border when it reopens, so it would make sense to include Portugal.
“As long as there’s an effective test and trace systems in these countries and people stick to social distancing measures where appropriate and travel responsibly, it makes sense to open as many corridors as possible with countries with lower R rates.
“There will be spikes. It’s understandable. But from a travel economy point of view, it’s crucial to get things moving again and allow people to book holidays.
“We have to see an unblocking of this fear of booking.”
News of the air bridges came as UK booking sites reported record sales for staycation trips shortly after Britons were given the green light to stay in self-contained accommodation such as hotels, B&Bs and campsites in England from July 4 onwards.
Lodge specialists Hoseasons says it received one booking every 11 seconds directly after the announcement was made by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson as UK residents jumped at the chance of being able to take a domestic break after weeks and weeks in lockdown.