What is the new island quarantine policy? And how will it affect you?

7 September 2020, 23:56

The Government has changed its coronavirus quarantine policy for certain islands
The Government has changed its coronavirus quarantine policy for certain islands. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

With the Government bringing in new rules on quarantine from certain islands many are asking how it will impact on them? And what does the new islands policy mean?

On Monday Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced some islands will be removed from quarantine restrictions separately to countries as a whole.

Speaking to MPs in the House of Commons Mr Shapps said the Government were not able to introduce regional travel corridors from within the geographical boundaries of a nation-state.

"However, when a region has natural boundaries like an island, for example, the risk diminishes significantly," he said.

The move has been welcomed by the tourism industry as it will open up some islands to British tourists again without them having to quarantine.

Airport Operators Association (AOA) chief executive Karen Dee said: "Treating islands separately to a mainland, for the purposes of quarantine, is a welcome step in the right direction for Government policy."

But what does this mean for travellers and how could it impact on your holiday?

What is the so-called "islands policy" that has been announced?

In a statement to the Commons on Monday, Mr Shapps said islands can now be individually added to or removed from England's quarantine-free list.

This means they will be treated separately from their mainland countries.

Why has the approach to international travel changed?

The Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) has been commissioned to assess the most popular island destinations for British tourists.

"Through the use of enhanced data we will now be able to pinpoint risk in some of the most popular islands, providing increased flexibility to add or remove them - distinct from the mainland - as infection rates change," Mr Shapps said.

"This development will help boost the UK's travel industry while continuing to maintain maximum protection to public health, keeping the travelling public safe."

How has this changed the quarantine-free list?

From 4am on Wednesday, arrivals from seven Greek islands will need to self-isolate for 14 days - but mainland Greece will maintain its quarantine-exemption.

These are the islands of Lesvos, Tinos, Serifos, Mykonos, Crete, Santorini and Zakynthos, also known as Zante.

Can regions within a country's mainland be added and removed?

The Department for Transport said it is not safe to implement a fully regional system for international travel corridors, as there is too much movement between regions within countries.

However, it said that when a region has natural boundaries - like an island - the risks reduce, so changes will only apply to land that has a clear border and "robust, reliable and internationally comparable data" is available.

The island must also have direct flights to the UK, or transport must have taken place through exempt territories.

How is this different to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?

This decision brings England partly into line with Wales, which removed six Greek islands from its quarantine-free list last week.

Scotland reintroduced quarantine measures for those returning from the whole of Greece last Thursday, while Northern Ireland has so far resisted tightening the travel guidance for the Mediterranean country.

Have restrictions changed on islands in other countries?

Madrid urged the UK to exclude the Canaries and Balearics - which include popular tourist resorts on Ibiza, Majorca and Menorca - when its quarantine requirements were imposed at the end of July.

But Mr Shapps told the Commons on Monday that cases currently remain "too high" in these areas.

How has the tourism industry reacted to the news?

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, which represents UK carriers, said it was a "step in the right direction" that gave further choice and clarity for travellers.

But he added: "That said, a comprehensive testing regime is urgently required to enable connectivity to and from countries like the US, one of our most vital trading and strategic partners."

This was echoed by Airport Operators Association (AOA) chief executive Karen Dee, who urged the Government to decide on a testing regime to be put in place "as soon as possible".