Test and trace systems among ‘key considerations’ for air bridges – Shapps

Air bridges will only be agreed with countries which have a coronavirus test and trace system at the same standard as the UK’s, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has indicated.

The Government believes travel from some countries should be allowed without the 14-day quarantine period but no announcement will be made until June 29, he told the Commons Transport Select Committee.

Asked what the “key considerations” are in the negotiations, Mr Shapps said the ability of a country to alert people if they have been in contact with a person who has coronavirus is one of the factors.

Outlining the questions being asked by UK officials, he said: “Do they have something equivalent to our NHS Test and Trace system? The Test and Trace system is enormous here now. We’ve got the capacity to test far more than is immediately required but that would allow for any uplift anywhere.

“Does the country we’re talking to have that kind of capability?”

He said another issue being considered is the level and trajectory of the disease in a destination.

Mr Shapps added that introducing air bridges is a “massive priority”, stating: “I understand entirely the pain that aviation is going through. I know both for airports, for airlines and actually for ground handlers as well, this coronavirus has been a complete disaster.

“The only thing which will be worse is if the country does not continue the work it’s doing on getting on top of it.

“That’s why quarantine has been introduced at a point where we were getting on top of it.

“I know there’s a lot of arguments about what we should have been doing at the beginning.

“No, the chief medical officer told me at the beginning that (quarantine) would not be a solution from the outset.”

Since June 8, all passengers – bar a handful of exemptions – have been required to go into self-isolation for 14 days when they arrive in the UK.

People who fail to comply can be fined £1,000 in England, and police are allowed to use “reasonable force” to make sure they follow the rules.