What is an air bridge? How links with other countries could work - and if international travel will be possible by July

The possibility of going abroad for a summer holiday this year has been ambitious at best, but Brits have now been given renewed hope thanks to the prospect of “air bridges”

A new scheme could allow people in the UK to travel to other destinations that have a low coronavirus infection rate, without being forced into quarantine when they return.

What is an air bridge?

An ‘air bridge’ is simply a route between two countries where the outbreak of coronavirus is under control.

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Air bridges would allow travel to countries that have a low infection rateAir bridges would allow travel to countries that have a low infection rate
Air bridges would allow travel to countries that have a low infection rate

Such routes would allow tourists to travel freely between a number of approved countries, and avoid having to go into mandatory quarantine on either end.

Under current plans, any travellers who arrive in the UK are required to self-isolate for a period of 14 days - a prospect which may be off-putting for many who are thinking of going abroad.

However, if proposals for so-called air bridges are approved, the UK government could make agreements to allow travel without quarantine with countries who have low rates of infection.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Transport Minister Grant Shapps said: “It is the case we should consider further improvements, for example, things like air bridges enabling people from other countries who have themselves achieved lower levels of coronavirus infection to come to the country.”

Which destinations could allow air bridges?

The idea of air bridges would be to link the UK to countries which have a low coronavirus infection rate.

As such, British tourists could potentially be allowed to visit Greece and Portugal, which have both agreed to consider allowing access without a mandatory quarantine.

Both countries have a low number of coronavirus cases, meaning Brits would be at much lower risk of infection.

Air bridges linking the UK and the US are also being considered.

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However, as the US has the highest coronavirus death toll in the world, it is unlikely travel would be considered safe any time soon.

Other countries around the world are also allowing travel bridges as well, with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania permitting free travel between one another, while Australia and New Zealand are considering similar measures.

When could air bridges be implemented?

Plans to introduce air bridges with other countries are unlikely to be in place before July, despite calls from the airline industry for a decision to be made by the government “within days rather than weeks”.

It was hoped that the government would be able to announce agreements with other countries before the UK enforced a mandatory two-week quarantine on anyone entering the country, but the quarantine rule is now in force as of 8 June.

The Quash Quarantine group, which includes 500 travel and tour operators, previously warned the government of the devastating effect imposing such a quarantine would have on the tourist industry, and said it would take legal action.

However, if the air bridge scheme is introduced, the group said it will pause such action against the government.

Spokesman Paul Charles said: "There’s a desire by the group to take action and we are not ruling it out in the future but we have had these assurances from senior Government sources that travel corridors will be in place from June 29."

While travel firms that are opposed to the government's coronavirus quarantine rule have said they have been given "private assurances" that air bridges will be introduced by the end of this month, Whitehall sources said there was “not a chance” of such deals being in place in time due to the legal complexities involved.

When air bridges are introduced, they could be from low-risk countries including Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Australia