An ‘air bridge’ between the UK and Portugal could allow British tourists to bypass quarantine when they arrive back home, the Portuguese foreign minister has suggested. 

Branding quarantine ‘an enemy of tourism’, Augusto Santos Silva said his country is in discussions with the UK about the proposals, with all arrivals into the UK currently being told to go into isolation for a fortnight.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘During these weeks our diplomats will work together in order to guarantee that British tourists coming to Portugal would not be subjected on their return to England to any kind of quarantine.’

Meanwhile, Italy, another country popular with UK tourists, began allowing people to travel in, out and around the country for the first time in around three months today. The idea of an ‘air bridge’ with Spain has also been rumoured. 

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Most people arriving in the UK from Monday will be told to isolate for 14 days in an attempt to prevent coronavirus cases being introduced from overseas.

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The Home Secretary Priti Patel will set out details on the quarantine plans later today. She has said avoiding a second peak of coronavirus ‘will always be our top priority’, insisting that the restrictions on arrivals ‘are informed by science, backed by the public and will keep us all safe’.

A £1,000 fixed penalty notice in England will be levied on those failing to adhere to the quarantine, with prosecution and an unlimited fine potentially to follow.

There is widespread concern that the measure will cause further damage to UK travel and tourism businesses, which have been badly hit by the pandemic.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman confirmed yesterday that the Government is still looking at the prospect of ‘air bridges’ between the UK and other countries, creating specific exemptions from the quarantine rules.

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Reports suggest Boris Johnson is in favour of the plan – and he has previously said some countries could be exempt from the quarantine.

However, health experts have raised a number of concerns to The Guardian. 

David Hunter, a professor of epidemiology at Oxford University, said: ’If you went on vacation to a country thought to be low risk, but while you’re there, there’s a massive outbreak, would you now be handled differently? You probably should be.’

He added: ‘If the countries agree and the rules are clear and the contingencies are clear, then at least people know what they could be in for, whereas if it’s all vague then it’s a bigger risk.’

EasyJet, Ryanair and British Airways are among the airlines which have announced plans to ramp up their operations next month, despite the Foreign and Commonwealth Office currently advising against non-essential foreign travel.

Health minister Edward Argar said he hoped people would be able to go on holiday this year.

He told BBC Breakfast: ‘I’m not going to say a particular date on when that might happen because we will have to be guided by how the disease behaves, controlling any risk of a second wave and controlling the disease.

‘I hope that people will be able to go on holiday at some point this year, but I can’t make that promise and because I have to be cautious and go with the science and I don’t have that forward view yet of how a second wave or otherwise might behave.’

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