Portugal hoping to be among first countries with quarantine-free ‘air bridge’ to UK

Portugal could become one of the first countries to agree to an “air bridge” with the UK, allowing citizens travelling between both countries to avoid quarantine measures.

Manuel Lobo Antunes, Portugal’s ambassador to the UK, said the nation was keen to come to an agreement that would allow British tourists to return this summer.

“We think the situation is under control and we would be happy to receive, as before, as many British as possible,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Boris Johnson is expected to announce a small number of bilateral air bridge arrangements on 29 June, the Telegraph reports, connecting Britons to predominantly short-haul destinations with low coronavirus transmission levels from 4 July.

The government is focusing on countries such as France, Spain, Greece and Portugal, according to the newspaper.

Under such deals, travellers would not have to undergo quarantine when arriving at their destination, and would also be exempt from the controversial two-week quarantine currently in place for all travellers arriving in the UK.

The bridges, or “travel corridors”, will only come into effect after the Foreign Office agrees to lift its ban on non-essential travel to the destinations and when cleared by the chief medical officers.

The government has advised against all travel outside the UK since 23 March, and any lifting of the FCO ban is likely to focus on European countries first.

Officials are assessing the risk of contracting Covid-19 in each country, as well as the popularity of each destination.

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Australia and the British territories of Bermuda, Montserrat and the Falklands Islands are also being considered for the air bridges, the paper reports, although these may not be included in the first group of countries.

It is likely further air bridge agreements will be announced in subsequent weeks, but the strategy may mean the government’s 14-day quarantine for arrivals, which is due to be reviewed on 29 June, could remain in place for the rest of the summer for any travellers from countries not included in such arrangements.

UK airports could soon use coronavirus swab tests to screen passengers on arrival, with a negative result releasing them from the quarantine, the BBC reported.

The tests, expected to be trialled at a major airport in the coming weeks, will cost £140 and will need to be booked in advance online.

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