Travellers returning from the Canary Islands from Saturday will now have to quarantine after a surge in cases on the archipelago meant its travel corridor has been taken away.
Passengers will have to isolate for 14 days if they arrive before Tuesday, but if they arrive after they can opt to buy a private test to cut the period of quarantine to five days.
Read more: UK tourists banned from EU travel from 1 January
Saudi Arabia and Botswana have also had travel corridors approved, transport minister Grant Shapps tweeted, meaning people will not have to isolate on return.
The update as it was reported that UK citizens would not be able to enter the EU after 1 January under current coronavirus rules if no Brexit deal is agreed.
Although many experts are sceptical that European states would enforce such ban and thus cut off critical tourism income streams, a statement from European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen suggested that trouble could still be ahead of UK-European connections.
In a statement on contingency plans in case of no trade deal is agreed by 1 January, she wrote that “basic air connectivity and certain air services” would be guaranteed for six months from January.
Although it is so far unclear to which services she is referring, the uncertainty could blow a hole in summer holiday planning for airlines and tourists alike.
The confusion came as new data from the ONS showed that travel agents and operators were 90 per cent down on where they were in February 2020, the worst of any of the services sectors.
Get ‘test to release’ scheme up and running ‘urgently’, ministers begged
Travel businesses are pushing the government to release full details of its new “test to release” programme so that people can make travel arrangements for Christmas.
From 15 December, the initiative is supposed to allow travellers to end their quarantine early if they pay for and pass a coronavirus test.
But with just five days to go before the programme kicks in, passengers are still unable to book a test from one of the government’s approved providers – because they haven’t been made public.
In order to use the “test to release” scheme, passengers have to book a test before they land in the UK, and have to include details of the test on the government’s “passenger locator form”. They can do this from 48 hours before they arrive in England.
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On the webpage for the programme, however, it still says that a list of private test providers will be published online “soon”.
The general secretary of pilot union Balpa, Brian Strutton, told City A.M.: “Rishi Sunak, Matt Hancock and Grant Shapps all lined up to trumpet the Government’s ‘test to release’ scheme but here we are two weeks later and only a week before the scheme is supposed to go live, to find that passengers can’t actually use it.
“How can passengers plan Christmas visits to family and friends abroad, if they can’t book the promised tests to reduce quarantine? This scheme is laudable in its intent but it needs to be up and running urgently.”
Clive Wratten, the chief executive of the Business Travel Association (BTA), said that the lack of detail “just one week from launch” was “disappointing”.
The “test to release” programme was designed to replace the government’s current 14-day quarantine period, which has been in place since July.
Under the new scheme, travellers to England will be able to take a test on the fifth day after arrival, as long as they are prepared to pay for it themselves. If it comes back negative, they can then leave quarantine early.
Although most airlines and travel firms welcomed the move away from a blanket quarantine regime, many have argued that the government should have embraced an airport testing programme instead.
Read more: High-flying business figures exempted from travel quarantine rules
Wratten added: “The “test to release” scheme also retains an unnecessary quarantine period which could be removed if the Government fully embraced the potential of on-departure testing.
“Doing this would make all travel more viable, and is crucial for business travel which is a vital enabler for the British economy.”
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