The UK will lift its two week quarantine requirements for people travelling to and from most EU countries from next week, as Boris Johnson’s government continues to ease restrictions put in place to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
19 EU countries will be on the ‘green’ and ‘amber’ list of countries from which travellers will be able to travel to and from freely.
Sweden is the only Northern European country not to be exempted. Bulgaria, Romania, Portugal, Latvia, Estonia, Slovakia and Slovenia are also not on the exempt list, despite the fact that they all have lower coronavirus infection rates than the UK.
Travellers from the United States will be among those who will still have to quarantine.
However, accessing some of the destinations will still remain difficult. Greece, one of the most popular European holiday destinations for Britons, has banned all flights from the UK until 15 July because of continued concerns over the UK’s numbers of coronavirus cases.
The UK has suffered the highest death toll from the virus in Europe – the toll stood at 43,995 on Thursday (2 July) – but its infection rate has fallen dramatically over the past month.
Its government imposed the quarantine rules in early June, which required travellers arriving in or returning to the UK to self-isolate for 14 days.
That prompted an angry reaction from both Conservative and opposition lawmakers, as well as industry, over the timing of the measure, which was imposed more than two months after the coronavirus infection rate hit its peak, and the economic damage that it would cause to the UK’s battered tourism sector.
Government and opposition MPs complained that the rules were the “right move at the wrong time”, while more than 200 travel companies have written to Home Secretary Priti Patel calling for the rules to be scrapped.
If left in place, the quarantine regime would also require Britons to quarantine if they choose to travel abroad for summer holidays.
“The government’s quarantine rules have been a fiasco from the outset,” said Manuel Cortes, the general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, a trade union.
However, the easing of the requirements has prompted another angry reaction from the UK’s devolved governments in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
The Scottish government complained that it was not consulted on the matter before being presented with the list of countries to be exempted on Wednesday night.
The Foreign Office is also changing its blanket advice against all non-essential foreign travel from 4 July which has been in place since 17 March just before the UK was put into lockdown.
The next phase of deconfinement in the UK will also take place in the next 24 hours. Pubs and restaurants will be able to re-open this weekend, as well as cinemas, museums, galleries and hotels.
Swimming pools, indoor gyms and contact sports remain banned for the immediate future.