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Chaos as UK government lists quarantine-free countries

The much-anticipated release of the government’s list of quarantine-exempt countries turned into a shambles last night as confused travellers were left unsure whether popular holiday destinations would permit Britons to arrive there in the first place.

Travellers from England can visit 73 destinations with no mandatory quarantine upon their return from July 10 – including France, Italy, Spain, Germany, New Zealand, Malta and Barbados.

But official guidance does not immediately specify whether the countries on the list will reciprocate the quarantine-free arrangements meaning travellers could be made to self-isolate when they land – or even be refused entry all together. 

Instead, the government website directs customers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office page for guidance broken down country by country.

But the FCO have issued their own list of 67 countries and territories which it feels are safe-enough to exempt from its advisory against all non-essential travel, leading to experts slamming the measures as a ‘complete mess’. 

Among some of the places missing from the FCO’s list – but present on the Department for Transport’s one – are Fiji, Mauritius and the Seychelles. 

There are also some destinations which the FCO listed but the DfT did not, such as Canada, Estonia, Malaysia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Singapore and the Portuguese regions of the Azores and Madeira, meaning travellers must still isolate for 14 days on their return. 

Travellers were also unsure if they should cancel trips or plough ahead and book new ones after popular holiday destinations, including Portugal, were missed of the DfT’s list all together.   

While some holidaymakers have been forced to cancel their upcoming trips – many say they will visit Portugal anyway.

In response to a tweet from the country’s foreign ministry which slammed the decision as ‘absurd’, Neil McCafferty wrote: ‘Really sorry for the actions of the UK Government. We’re coming anyway, they can stuff their quarantine!’

Emily Plews added: ‘I am genuinely sorry, I hate our government with a burning passion and you can catch more Covid in a scrummy little pub. 

‘We are still coming on the 10th of July as we have booked flights and we cannot wait! Love you Portugal.’

Portugal’s foreign minister Agusto Santos Silva told Portuguese media: ‘It it is absurd for a country like the United Kingdom – which has seven times more cases than Portugal and 28 times more Covid-19 related deaths than we do – to impose quarantine on the return of passengers from Portugal.

The much-anticipated release of the government's list of quarantine-exempt countries turned into a shambles last night as confused travellers were left unsure whether popular holiday destinations would permit Britons to arrive there in the first place

The much-anticipated release of the government's list of quarantine-exempt countries turned into a shambles last night as confused travellers were left unsure whether popular holiday destinations would permit Britons to arrive there in the first place

The much-anticipated release of the government’s list of quarantine-exempt countries turned into a shambles last night as confused travellers were left unsure whether popular holiday destinations would permit Britons to arrive there in the first place

 

While some holidaymakers have been forced to cancel their upcoming trips - many say they will visit Portugal anyway

While some holidaymakers have been forced to cancel their upcoming trips - many say they will visit Portugal anyway

While some holidaymakers have been forced to cancel their upcoming trips – many say they will visit Portugal anyway

Portugal's foreign minister Agusto Santos Silva told Portuguese media: 'It it is absurd for a country like the United Kingdom which has seven times more cases than Portugal and 28 times more Covid-19 related deaths than we do to impose quarantine on the return of passengers from Portugal. Pictured: People enjoy the beach in Loule, Portugal (file image)

Portugal's foreign minister Agusto Santos Silva told Portuguese media: 'It it is absurd for a country like the United Kingdom which has seven times more cases than Portugal and 28 times more Covid-19 related deaths than we do to impose quarantine on the return of passengers from Portugal. Pictured: People enjoy the beach in Loule, Portugal (file image)

Portugal’s foreign minister Agusto Santos Silva told Portuguese media: ‘It it is absurd for a country like the United Kingdom which has seven times more cases than Portugal and 28 times more Covid-19 related deaths than we do to impose quarantine on the return of passengers from Portugal. Pictured: People enjoy the beach in Loule, Portugal (file image)

Tourists sunbathe along Porto Katsiki Beach on Lefkada Island, Greece, (file image). Some cool off with a dip in the sea

Tourists sunbathe along Porto Katsiki Beach on Lefkada Island, Greece, (file image). Some cool off with a dip in the sea

Tourists sunbathe along Porto Katsiki Beach on Lefkada Island, Greece, (file image). Some cool off with a dip in the sea

‘It would be nothing more than an absurdity if it didn’t have real consequences.’ 

Insisting Portugal was safe for British holidaymakers and expats, he added: ‘This is a shock because of the long-standing relationship between the UK and Portugal. This is not how allies should behave.’

Confusingly Greece made the list of quarantine-free arrivals, despite Transport Secretary Grant Shapps suggesting only this morning that it would be missed off.

Britons also took to social media to slam the decision, with many defiant holidaymakers saying they will go on holiday anyway.

Hilary Butler said: ‘Absolutely gutted. Why not Portugal? There are lots of countries on that list have a higher infection rate than them.

‘And Greece? They won’t even have us until July 15th, unless you’re the PM’s father. Disgusted! And I won’t be voting for you again.’

J Walker wrote: ‘How do you justify banning Portugal when you have 28 times more deaths, Leicester is on lockdown and 36 other cities are at high risk yet you allow travel to Greece when they don’t want you? Shambolic and more dithering.’

Summer holidays have been thrown into chaos yet again after the government unveiled a list of more than 60 quarantine-exempt countries which included Greece but not Portugal

Summer holidays have been thrown into chaos yet again after the government unveiled a list of more than 60 quarantine-exempt countries which included Greece but not Portugal

Summer holidays have been thrown into chaos yet again after the government unveiled a list of more than 60 quarantine-exempt countries which included Greece but not Portugal

Greece previously said it will not be reciprocating quarantine-free travel until July 15, when it will review its rules.

The Prime Minister’s father Stanley Johnson this week broke pandemic travel warnings currently in place by flying to Greece via Bulgaria.

As Britain welcomes arrivals from 73 destinations quarantine-free, here are the measures UK holidaymakers will face when they land abroad

Britons can travel to 73 destinations with no mandatory quarantine upon their return to England from July 10 – including France, Italy, Spain, Germany, New Zealand, Malta and Barbados.

The government’s official website does not specify whether the countries on the list will reciprocate the quarantine-free arrangements.

It instead urges travellers to check the individual rules for arrivals to their destination as measures will differ from country to country with some enacting a ban on arrivals from Britain all together.

Here is a breakdown of some of the holiday destinations and what rules they have in place for arrivals from the UK… 

Andorra: No entry at all for arrivals from Britain

Antigua and Barbuda: Travellers without dual-nationality and who have a particular travel history will not be allowed to enter

Aruba: Quarantine-free travel for arrivals from Britain

Australia: UK arrivals must quarantine for 14 days 

Austria: UK arrivals must quarantine for 14 days unless a test proves they are negative

Bahamas:  Arrivals must be able to show they have tested negative for coronavirus or they will not be able to enter

Barbados: Arrivals from Britain must remain quarantined as they await coronavirus test results (a test is compulsory)

Belgium: Quarantine-free travel for arrivals from Britain

Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba: Borders are shut meaning no-one can enter the country

Croatia: Quarantine-free travel for arrivals from Britain

Curaçao: No entry at all for arrivals from Britain 

Cyprus: A ban is in place on anyone who has travelled to the UK in the last 14 days

Czech Republic: Quarantine-free travel for arrivals from Britain

Denmark: Quarantine-free travel for arrivals from Britain

Dominica: No entry at all for arrivals from Britain

Faroe Islands: Anyone arriving from the UK will be given a Covid-19 test when they arrive

Fiji: No entry at all for arrivals from Britain

Finland: Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba

France:  Arrivals from Britain should quarantine for 14 days – but it is not compulsary 

French Polynesia: Arrivals from Britain must quarantine for 14 days

Germany: Quarantine-free travel for arrivals from Britain

Greece: Arrivals from Britain must quarantine for 14 days

Grenada: All arrivals will be tested – it is unclear what quarantine arrangements are in place 

Guadeloupe: Arrivals will be screened and may need to quarantine

Hong Kong: Arrivals from Britain could be made to quarantine for 14-days

Hungary: No entry at all for arrivals from Britain

Iceland: Arrivals can choose to be tested – which they must pay for – or self-isolate for 14 days. Children do not need to do either 

Italy: Quarantine-free travel for arrivals from Britain

Jamaica: All arrivals are tested for coronavirus. Those with positive results will be confined

Japan: No entry at all for arrivals from Britain

Liechtenstein: Quarantine-free travel for arrivals from Britain

Lithuania: Arrivals from Britain must quarantine for 14 days

Luxembourg: No entry at all for arrivals from Britain

Macau: No entry at all for arrivals from Britain

Malta: No entry at all for arrivals from Britain

Mauritius: No entry at all for arrivals from Britain

Monaco: No entry at all for arrivals from Britain

Netherlands: No entry at all for arrivals from Britain

New Caledonia: Travel certificate must be completed – limited flights

New Zealand: No entry at all for arrivals from Britain

Norway: No entry at all for arrivals from Britain

Poland: Quarantine-free travel for arrivals from Britain

San Marino: Quarantine-free travel for arrivals from Britain

Seychelles: No commercial flights

South Korea: Arrivals must be tested and quarantine for 14 days

St Barthélemy: Travel certificate

St Kitts and Nevis: Borders are closed

St Lucia: Borders are closed

St Pierre & Miquelon: Travel certificate 

Spain: Quarantine-free travel for arrivals from Britain

Switzerland: No entry at all for arrivals from Britain

Taiwan: Arrivals from Britain must quarantine for 14 days

Trinidad and Tobago: Borders are closed

Turkey: Arrivals from Britain will be tested when they land 

Vatican city: Quarantine-free travel for arrivals from Britain

Vietnam: Arrivals from Britain must quarantine for 14 days at least

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MPs said the incident ‘stinks of one rule for them and another rule for the rest of us’ and claimed it echoed No 10 aide Dominic Cummings’ infamous lockdown trip to Barnard Castle.  

The travel overhaul will only apply to England for the time being, as Nicola Sturgeon has refused to sign up to the arrangements branding them ‘shambolic’.

Labour and Which? Travel also said the measures announced on Friday were a ‘mess’. 

Labour said the Government’s failure to negotiate air bridges was ‘an indictment of their failure to tackle the crisis at home’.

Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said: ‘Labour, like families and businesses up and down the country, are keen for the Government’s quarantine measures to be lessened, but this is a mess.

‘First we had the quarantine that they were slow to implement, then they said they’d do air bridges.

‘Now we see a plan to let residents of 60 or more countries into England without any reciprocal arrangements.

‘The fact they have been unable to negotiate air bridges is an indictment of their failure to tackle the crisis at home.

‘They were too slow to take lockdown, too slow to order PPE and too slow to protect our country.’

Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said holidaymakers having to check the two lists and for any restrictions in their destination country would be ‘forgiven for thinking this announcement hasn’t been thought through’.

He added: ‘The Government’s attempt to relax international travel restrictions has been a complete mess, leaving millions of people with no clarity over whether their holiday can go ahead and less chance of getting their money back if they can’t go.

‘If the Government is to have any hope of getting travel back up and running, it must urgently provide clear and coherent guidance on foreign travel to remedy the mass confusion caused so far.’

Noel Josephides, chairman of tour operator Sunvil, said the omission of Portugal from the UK’s quarantine-free list will ‘kill their peak season’.

He added: ‘A lot of hotels are going to close, there’s going to be considerable unemployment because of it, and it’s totally unnecessary.’

Mr Josephides said the impact on large tour operators such as Tui and Jet2 will be ‘quite serious’.

However, Tui managing director Andrew Flintham said that he was pleased the Government had confirmed that ‘summer holidays are saved’.

But the company said it will not be taking customers to any destinations where they will need to self-isolate when they arrive or when they return home.

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency and member of the Quash Quarantine campaign group, said: ‘It’s an extensive list which will help many people who have holidays already booked.

‘Let’s hope some on the list relax their own restrictions soon so as to enable the travel economy to restart and recover successfully.’

Joss Croft, chief executive of UKinbound, a trade association representing the inbound tourism industry, said: ‘English tourism businesses, in the inbound and outbound industry, will be breathing another sigh of relief today following the official Government announcement that arrivals from over 50 countries will no longer need to quarantine from Friday July 10.

‘There are however a number of very important inbound markets that are still excluded, such as the USA, China and countries in the Middle East.’

Meanwhile, Mr Shapps is facing Tory anxiety over the idea of introducing mass screening systems at airports from later this month.

MPs warned there is a danger the move, which Mr Shapps has said is being ‘actively’ considered, could make matters worse if it causes delays, given that 80million passengers a year usually go through Heathrow alone. 

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is reworking its advice against ‘non-essential’ travel, with the new guidance in force from July 4.  

However the measures exempting travellers from quarantine will not be in place until July 10. The details published by the government this afternoon said: ‘This list may be added to over the coming days following further discussions between the UK and international partners.’

The majority of passengers will still have to provide contact details when they arrive in England. 

The countries are expected to be split into a ‘traffic light’ system, with unconditional ‘green’ ratings for those with very low coronavirus rates, such as New Zealand.

Other such as France have been classed as ‘amber’, with reciprocal agreements for travel.

Those who have been through countries still on the quarantine list in the past 14 days will still have to self-isolate for two weeks.

Mr Shapps said much of the list was ‘common sense’ – but confirmed there will not be pacts in place for the ‘green’ rated countries, meaning there is no guarantee Britons will not face restrictions. 

Blaming the splits for repeated delays in publishing the material, Mr Shapps said he ‘suspected’ Scotland would fall into line soon, but for now the proposals only applied to England.  

He said: ‘There will be a list of 50-plus countries. If you add in the overseas territories (there will be) 60-something-or-other that will be announced later today.

‘France, Germany, Italy and Spain will be on that list. It is really important that we have done this in a very careful and cautious way. The most important thing is to maintain the gains that we have had.’

Explaining the system, Mr Shapps said: ‘We have countries in the green category where there are very low occurrences (of coronavirus), and then countries in the amber group. 

‘They would include France, Germany, Spain and quite a number of others.’ 

Mr Shapps said: ‘The countries on the (overall) list mean that when you arrive there you won’t have restrictions. Unless they are on the green list, those are the countries with very low incidence. 

‘We thought it was right to include them. 

‘I take New Zealand as a good example, they do have restrictions when you arrive, but we thought it was right to include them because people may want to come here from New Zealand and that’s no particular threat to our hard-won gains. 

‘But on the middle countries, those ones are places where we have reciprocal arrangements in place that if you go there or if you come here, the arrangements are the same both ways round. 

‘In other words. You do not have to quarantine.’ 

People who are already in quarantine following their return to England will no longer need to self-isolate from July 10, Mr Shapps said. 

‘It’s very important to stress the quarantine does exist until July 10,’ Mr Shapps said. 

The list of countries that will be exempt from quarantine measures includes overseas territories such as the Falkland Islands and Gibraltar. 

Passengers arriving in the UK will still need to fill out a ‘locator form’, Mr Shapps said. 

‘That asks where you’ve been and where you’re coming back to,’ he said. ‘It is a criminal offence not to complete that form accurately and there are quite substantial fines.’ 

However, Mr Shapps confirmed that quarantine rules will not be lifted next week for travellers arriving from the US or Greece. 

‘The US, from a very early stage, banned flights from the UK and from Europe so there isn’t a reciprocal arrangement in place in any case there,’ he said. 

‘They have got very high numbers of infections, which is why they are not on the list today. 

‘Greece won’t be on the list in the first place because Greece have said that on July 15 that’s their next review of their own systems. 

Screening system is  being developed for UK airports, says Shapps 

The government and airports are working on screening systems for passengers, Grant Shapps said today. 

Mr Shapps told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme they wanted to develop ‘systems that could be used to test in various different ways’.

An ‘international standard’ could be created including testing at scale. 

Airport services providers Swissport and Collinson Group have already announced trials of coronavirus swab tests in the UK.

Temperature screening is also being tried out at Heathrow.

Mr Shapps told the Commons yesterday: ‘We do believe it is important to provide international standards and that may well include specific types of testing.’

But veteran Tory MP Sir Roger Gale said there was a danger mass screening at airports could make things worse by causing delays. 

‘There is no point supporting something that is not going to work. If it can be made to work it is highly desirable, both outgoing and incoming,’ he told MailOnline.

‘But is it practical? What we don’t want is to create massive log jams, people bunching up together. 

‘We might not be offering a cure, we might be creating a problem.’

He added: ‘What we don’t want is for people to be to be delayed by half an hour three quarters of an hour because there is a queue for testing. All that will happen is people will bunch up and you will spread disease.’ 

‘Reciprocity can’t come before July 15 for Greece and that is a matter for Greece themselves.’ 

Ms Sturgeon today attacked the UK Government’s ‘shambolic’ plans to exempt a swathe of countries from quarantine travel restrictions as she insisted Scotland will not be ‘dragged’ into making changes.

She said the UK Government had failed to adequately consult the devolved administrations on the plans as she claimed the list of proposed safe countries had constantly changed.

Ms Sturgeon said she will ‘take time to properly and rationally consider’ any changes as she warned there could well be differences between Scotland’s and England’s quarantine exemptions lists.

That would mean that anyone who flies into an English airport from a country not on Scotland’s safe list would still be required to self-isolate if they then travelled north of the border.

She told her daily coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh: ‘We have often had limited or no notice of the UK’s proposals and that matters because some of the judgements involved here are difficult and complex.

‘Just to illustrate the point about the shifting sands of the UK Government’s position, the list of countries that they were yesterday demanding that the Scottish Government signed up to and suggesting that we were a barrier to getting agreement on is not the same as the list that they have shared with us today.

‘So we need as the Scottish Government to analyse these proposals properly and rationally.

‘We need to do that obviously from a public health perspective but we also need to do that from a legal perspective.’

She added: ‘When so much is at stake as it is right now, we can’t allow ourselves to be dragged along in the wake of another government’s, to be quite frank about, shambolic decision making process.

‘We will take time to properly and rationally consider this before hopefully very soon setting out our own decision.’

Ms Sturgeon said it is ‘very likely’ that the Scottish Government will agree to lifting quarantine on low risk countries but that medium risk countries would need to be carefully considered.

The Scottish First Minister said she will aim to ‘maximise alignment’ between Scotland and England’s quarantine exemptions lists but that if there are differences people will still be expected to self-isolate north of the border.

She said: ‘If there ends up being a different list of countries that are able to come into England without quarantine from the list that the Scottish Government agrees, it will not be the case that somebody can fly into England, to an airport in England, and come to Scotland without quarantine. 

‘The quarantine regulations in Scotland will mean that if you come from an international country and come back to Scotland even if you are coming through England, you will still have that requirement to quarantine in Scotland.’

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford also voiced frustration. ‘Dealing with the UK government over the last few days has been an utterly shambolic experience,’ he told his daily briefing. 

Cruise industry prepares to re-start 

The cruise industry is planning a phased return to sailings after being one of the sectors worst-hit by the coronavirus crisis.

The industry generates £10 billion for the UK economy every year, and supports more than 40,000 direct jobs and tens of thousands of others in the supply chain and around ports.

Cruises were halted around the world earlier this year, shattering the holiday plans of hundreds of thousands of people, and causing huge economic damage to ports, including dozens in the UK.

Andy Harmer, director of the Cruise Lines International Association, said the industry has since been working to ensure a safe return to business, from the time passengers leave their homes, to when they are on board a vessel.

He said he hopes that cruises will re-start later in the year, possibly as early as September.

‘A phased return is the right approach, and only when the time is right,’ he said. ‘There have been additional health and safety measures in place on cruises for a number of years, including sanitation, health facilities on board and health questionnaires.’

New guidance is being published by European authorities which should mark another step forward for the resumption of cruises.

‘If ever there was an example of making an announcement first and then trying to work out what you meant by it, that is what we have seen since this announcement was first trailed.

‘Day after day we have attempted to get a sensible answer from the UK government of how they intend to make these changes, which countries they intend to extend the new arrangements to and I just have to say it’s been an impossible experience to follow.’

Mr Shapps told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he was working with airports to develop ‘systems that could be used to test in various different ways’. 

Airport services providers Swissport and Collinson Group have announced trials of coronavirus swab tests in the UK.

Temperature screening is also being tried out at Heathrow.

Mr Shapps told the Commons yesterday there would be more announcements by the middle of the month.

‘I am in touch with Swissport and following those trials and proposals very closely indeed,’ he said.

‘We do believe it is important to provide international standards and that may well include specific types of testing.’

But veteran Tory MP Sir Roger Gale said there was a danger mass screening at airports could make things worse by causing delays. 

‘There is no point supporting something that is not going to work. If it can be made to work it is highly desirable, both outgoing and incoming,’ he told MailOnline.

‘But is it practical? What we don’t want is to create massive log jams, people bunching up together. 

‘We might not be offering a cure, we might be creating a problem.’

He added: ‘What we don’t want is for people to be to be delayed by half an hour three quarters of an hour because there is a queue for testing. All that will happen is people will bunch up and you will spread disease.’ 

Commons Transport Committee chair Huw Merriman welcomed the ‘risk-based’ approach to border controls and said the quarantine loosening would help ‘restore confidence’.

‘The aviation sector, tourism industry and UK economy will be relieved by this news and we welcome it,’ he said.

‘To minimise the risk to both passengers and workers from Covid-19, the UK Government now needs to champion the development and implementation of global health standards. 

‘The UK has led the world in the creation of aviation safety and we should do likewise in the creation of a universal health standard to keep us all safe.’

The decision to press ahead without the rest of the UK raises the prospect that Ms Sturgeon could follow through on her threat to impose quarantines on people arriving from England.

It has emerged that just three people have been fined since the controversial quarantine policy – blamed for crippling hopes of a tourism revival – was brought in last month.

Ministers agreed a new ‘traffic light’ system last week that would pave the way for the creation of so-called ‘international travel corridors’ designed to allow travellers to visit certain countries this summer without the need to quarantine at either end.

Ministers had originally planned to negotiate bilateral ‘air bridges’ with a limited number of countries. 

Under pressure from the travel industry and fears of legal action, this was then widened significantly.

Amid a bitter blame game between London and Edinburgh, Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg accused Ms Sturgeon yesterday of acting like Donald Trump wanting to ‘build a wall’ after she refused to rule out 14-day quarantines on arrivals from England.

Ministers have spent days trying to agree a UK-wide approach. Privately they accuse Miss Sturgeon of playing politics with the issue in order to fuel nationalist sentiment north of the border.

A passenger wearing a face mask arrives to to board Ryanair flight FR2190 to Malaga at London Southend Airport in Essex on Wednesday

A passenger wearing a face mask arrives to to board Ryanair flight FR2190 to Malaga at London Southend Airport in Essex on Wednesday

A passenger wearing a face mask arrives to to board Ryanair flight FR2190 to Malaga at London Southend Airport in Essex on Wednesday

Scotland’s justice secretary Humza Yousaf said the number of countries proposed by the UK Government had jumped from 42 to 73 during Wednesday.

He said the original list had 15 countries with a ‘green’ risk rating and 27 with an ‘amber’ rating – but 30 minutes before the 6pm meeting they were shown a list of 40 green and 33 amber nations.

The row came as travel agents started abandoning plans to sell holidays this summer due to the uncertainty around air bridges.

Lee Hunt, 42, owner of Deben Travel in Woodbridge, Suffolk, said: ‘If customers are paying, we need to guarantee them they are getting everything they pay for. We can’t do this at the moment.’

Chris Scoble, 54, of Go Scoble in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, said: ‘I think we have been put right at the back of the queue, despite being such a large part of this country’s economy.’

Holidaymakers return to Portals Nous in Mallorca yesterday as Spain starts to return to normal

Holidaymakers return to Portals Nous in Mallorca yesterday as Spain starts to return to normal

Holidaymakers return to Portals Nous in Mallorca yesterday as Spain starts to return to normal

Responding to the Government’s decision to lift quarantine restrictions in England, a spokesman for travel trade organisation Abta said: ‘The Government announcement today that lifts quarantine restrictions for returning passengers from 10 July in England will be greeted with huge relief by the travel industry, which can now plan ahead and take summer holiday bookings.

‘Travel businesses have been under enormous pressure since the start of the pandemic, and the industry can now start to meet customers’ pent-up appetite for travel.

‘Getting the balance of health risk and economic risk is a difficult challenge, and we strongly support the Government in taking this initiative.

‘There will be some changes to people’s travel experiences because of the health and safety measures in place to limit Covid-19, and it will be important going forward that customers speak to their travel provider so that they can book and travel with confidence.

‘And, of course, continued access to overseas destinations depends on our keeping Covid infection and transmission rates low in this country, so everyone should continue to heed public health guidelines.’

Nicola Sturgeon’s foot-dragging on air bridges leaving millions in holiday limbo has been a cynical ploy – she’s using Covid to try and split the Union, says STEPHEN DAISLEY

Every night at tea time, Scots switch on the TV news to a familiar sight: Nicola Sturgeon peering at them from behind her podium, giving the latest coronavirus figures and sharing her sympathy with those affected.

She is a deft communicator and peerless emoter who has convinced herself that Scotland could not get through the remainder of this crisis without her televised beneficence.

So we gather each evening to learn which of her vast array of powers the First Minister will call upon next. How far can we travel? When can our churches reopen? Where must we wear surgical masks now?

The SNP leader makes all these decisions without reference to Boris Johnson because, in Scotland, devolution takes vast swathes of the Prime Minister’s powers and hands them to the occupant of Bute House, the official residence of the First Minister.

And Sturgeon revels in flexing her authority, as her refusal this week to sign up to an agreement over air bridges showed us once again.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wears a Tartan face mask as she visits New Look at Ford Kinaird Retail Park in Edinburgh

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wears a Tartan face mask as she visits New Look at Ford Kinaird Retail Park in Edinburgh

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wears a Tartan face mask as she visits New Look at Ford Kinaird Retail Park in Edinburgh

Downing Street was expected to publish a list on Monday of countries which will no longer be subject to the 14-day self-isolation rules but, thanks to Ms Sturgeon’s grand-standing, the decision has repeatedly been pushed back, causing holiday chaos and stoking growing anger among businesses, such as travel companies and airlines, that have been so hard hit by Covid.

Scotland’s First Minister insists she just wants to ‘take a bit of time to consider the public health impact’ of what is being proposed.

What planet is she on? As agreements on air bridges with other countries have to be made on a UK-wide basis, by refusing to step into line with Downing Street she is throwing the holiday plans of millions of families into chaos

It is an outrageous display of playing politics with the pandemic: holding the UK to ransom to drum up support for her dream of independence.

In response to such accusations, Ms Sturgeon primly says that the very suggestion that political considerations might be a factor in her decision-making are ‘frankly disgraceful’. From the high priestess of politicisation, this is spectacular audacity.

She is even considering quarantining visitors to Scotland from south of the border. Boris Johnson’s assertion in response that ‘there is no such thing as a border between England and Scotland’ was a silly, unforced error. 

There is a legal boundary, with separate systems of law and law-making, but the nationalist leader’s thundering indignation was theatre — and bad theatre, at that.

‘If the Prime Minister is questioning that now,’ she snipped in rejoinder, ‘I’m not sure what he’d say if I pitched up in Newcastle and tried to implement Scottish Government policies there.’

The truth is that the idea of Sturgeon crossing the Tweed into England and finding herself locked in quarantine on her return would find favour with half of Scotland.

But frivolities aside, the mere suggestion that the Scottish Government even contemplates the idea of a quarantine is quite extraordinary. A Scottish quarantine would effectively suspend free movement between the two largest nations of the United Kingdom.

Passengers arrive to Palma de Mallorca airport, Spain amid the coronavirus crisis today

Passengers arrive to Palma de Mallorca airport, Spain amid the coronavirus crisis today

Passengers arrive to Palma de Mallorca airport, Spain amid the coronavirus crisis today

Scotland would be erecting a hard border in the middle of a national emergency and in the run-up to a Scottish Parliament election in which SNP demands for another referendum are certain to take centre stage.

The political symbolism of the act would overshadow any pretext of protecting public health.

Nicola Sturgeon is not naive. She knows all this. Yet she refuses to reject the idea, even though it would sharply divide Scots, trigger a territorial row between Bute House and Downing Street, and do lasting damage to Scotland’s vital tourism industry.

Indeed, the Scottish Tourism Alliance warns that holidaymakers from elsewhere in the UK have already begun asking about refunds on bookings.

Meanwhile, it is not clear how such quarantine measures would work in practice. This week Police Scotland said it does not even monitor who is entering the country.

The coronavirus outbreak called for leadership and, at first, Sturgeon appeared to grasp the gravity of the moment.

She acted with caution and spoke sombrely, holding to a four-nations strategy even as the very notion that Scotland should co-ordinate its response with the rest of the UK antagonised some in the grassroots of her party.

But, soon enough, political considerations got the better of her — as they so often do with this First Minister. When she was taken into the fold via Cobra meetings, she angered No 10 by pre-empting the Prime Minister’s announcement of a policy shift from containment to delay of the virus.

When Downing Street unveiled its ‘Stay Alert’ slogan, she refused to use it because it was ‘vague and imprecise’. The following month, she announced a motto of her own: ‘Stay Safe’.

There is an eye-poking quality to SNP’s approach to Middle England, a compulsive need to emphasise small divergences and cast Scotland and England as naturally separate countries.

Passengers wave as they walk along a gangway as an airplane boards from Germany to Greece

Passengers wave as they walk along a gangway as an airplane boards from Germany to Greece

Passengers wave as they walk along a gangway as an airplane boards from Germany to Greece

Yet, when it comes to efforts to control the virus, the SNP’s record is as at least as patchy as that of the Tories in England.

Both governments were sluggish in providing PPE, and both took too long to appreciate the importance of testing and tracing. On testing in particular, the Scottish Government’s record has been risible. At one point, only one-third of daily capacity was put to use.

Passengers could face swab tests at Heathrow and other airports, says Transport Secretary

An announcement on coronavirus swab tests for air passengers could be made within weeks, the Transport Secretary said yesterday.

Grant Shapps said he is speaking to airport handling firm Swissport, who are preparing a trial of a scheme which will involve travellers receiving a swab test after passing through immigration and customs.

The tests are similar to those issued by the NHS and can provide results in as little as seven hours.

 

Passengers with positive swabs would be asked to contact the test-and-trace service and complete two weeks of self-isolation.

Asked about airport testing for passengers in the Commons yesterday, Mr Shapps said: ‘It’s very important to ensure we can provide reassurance for passengers but also do something useful with the screening beyond perhaps just what asking people to take a temperature check provides.

‘And so we are actively working with Heathrow and other airports to put exactly those types of schemes in place and I will be saying more about those in time for the following review of air corridors.’

The Swissport trials are due to take place at an airport which has yet to be named.

Asked about the scheme, Mr Shapps said: ‘I am indeed in touch with Swissport and following those trials and proposals very closely indeed and as I indicated in a question or two back we do believe it is important to provide international standards and that may well include specific types of testing.’

Sturgeon’s Health Minister, Jeane Freeman, has also come under fire over the decision to transfer elderly patients from hospitals to care homes, some of them being moved without first being tested for coronavirus.

Back in May, Freeman told the Scottish Parliament only 300 older people had been discharged before compulsory testing was introduced. The actual figure was three times as high.

Sturgeon defended her staunch political ally, saying she might have been ‘tired’ when she gave the misleading number.

But no dereliction of duty has been quite as appalling as the Scottish Government’s handling of the Nike conference outbreak.

The sports giant held an international gathering in an Edinburgh hotel at the end of February.

By March 3, ministers knew at least two people connected to the event had tested positive for Covid-19, but the outbreak was kept secret from the public for another 69 days — when a BBC investigation revealed all. Sturgeon’s Government had slipped back into old habits of secrecy and subterfuge.

So far none of this is registering any political impact. With a Holyrood election scheduled for next May, Sturgeon is polling far ahead of the Scottish Conservatives, who have still not recovered from the loss of their former leader Ruth Davidson.

By rights, she could focus on her day job of running the country and coast to another term in Bute House, but that is not Sturgeon’s way. She is a fierce ideological animal, wily and lethal, and she lives for the hunt.

This makes her a deadly enemy to her opponents, but it renders her fundamentally ill-suited to governing. The temptation to politicise everything is ever-present because, for Sturgeon, politics is all there is.

Viruses come and go but the nationalist cause endures and, as long as it does, it will always be Nicola Sturgeon’s top priority.

She is leader of the SNP first, and First Minister of Scotland a distant second.

Source: Daily Mail

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