The UK is expected to announce the European countries it will form air bridges with this week – meaning Brits can travel without the need to quarantine in these partner nations or when they land back in the UK.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps indicated air bridges would only be agreed with countries which have a coronavirus test and trace system at the same standard as that used in Britain.
He told the Commons Transport Select Committee that introducing air bridges is a “massive priority”, and added: “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.”
So while staycations are the biggest trend this summer, those itching to go overseas will get their fix soon enough. Below are the destinations expected to be announced and where to stay when visiting them.
Which countries have an ‘air bridge’ with the UK?
While the government will announce the list of countries this week, below are the nations expected to be given the air bridge green light. The second list of countries, expected to be announced in the coming weeks, could include Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland and Norway as well as some Caribbean nations.
With 163,000 cases and nearly 30,000 deaths from coronavirus, along with Spain and the UK, France is among the hardest-hit European countries. However, as is with the UK, the amount of new cases and deaths has dropped dramatically over the past few weeks and earlier in June it opened its borders to neighbouring European countries. President Macron said at the time that “summer of 2020 will be a summer unlike any other”.
Where to stay: if there’s one thing we need as soon as we can travel internationally again, it’s a healthy dose of really good wine. Which is why we’re heading to Bordeaux, the home of French wine, this summer. Mama Shelter Bordeaux is located on the Place Saint-Christoly in the historic centre. As with all other Mama Shelters (there’s outposts in LA, Paris and London), it’s upbeat, stylish and a non-stuffy alternative to classic French hotels.
Rooms from £110 per night, mamashelter.com
Brits were given the go-ahead to visit Spain quarantine-free last Sunday and it’s expected to be announced as one of the first air bridge partners, meaning Brits won’t need to quarantine once back in the UK either. Spain’s Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez said at the time: “We will allow British visitors just like the rest of the EU to come to Spain freely and without the need for quarantine. There will be a triple-check for their origin, temperature and we’ll ask everyone to register so we can trace them.”
Where to stay: a lovely alternative to Italy’s Cinque Terre, Cudillero is a pastel-hued fishing village on the Asturian coast. Casona de la Paca is a small boutique hotel that sits just above the village with 19 individually-styles rooms in a renovated nineteenth century manor.
Rooms from £63 per night, casonadelapaca.com
When cases started to rise in Italy back in late February, that’s when we knew coronavirus had reached the West. Now, as cases there dwindle, it opened its borders to tourists at the start of June and is expected to be one of the UK’s air bridge partner nations.
Where to stay: wedged between Pisa and Florence in rural Tuscany, Villa Lena is a postcard-perfect agriturismo hotel and artists residency set among rolling hills. Here, learn to make pasta or join the artists in residence for sunset aperitivo or try your hand at truffle hunting in the nearby forests.
Rooms from £205 per night, villa-lena.it
Germany opened its borders to European nations on June 15, but yesterday announced it would tighten its lockdown restrictions after regional resurgences of the virus. While its borders remain open, those looking to visit should check out where the outbreaks are and plan their trips accordingly.
Where to stay: for a socially-distanced escape, head to the spa town of Baden Baden in Germany’s Black Forest. Belle Epoque is a charming boutique hotel with just 20 rooms all designed with a distinctly French influence (the town is just a 20-minute drive to the French border).
Rooms from £181 per night, hotel-belle-epoque.de
With just 3,376 cases and 191 deaths, Greece has gone largely untouched by coronavirus and is ready and willing to welcome back British travellers. Last week, the Greek tourism minister Haris Theoharis said Greece wants to welcome back Brits as early as this week and added: “The point is that Greece is a safe country – we have proven that during this crisis and we will continue proving this in the exit stages of the health situation.”
Where to stay: while Santorini and Mykonos are perennial favourites, Sifnos offers an alternative Cycladic adventure. With views to rival Santorini’s Oia and perched above Poulatis beach on Sifnos’ east coast, Verina Astra is undoubtedly the island’s sexiest hotel.
Rooms from £191 per night, verinahotelsifnos.com
What are the quarantine rules?
On June 8 the UK government introduced a mandatory two-week quarantine for all incoming passengers. People who fail to comply can be fined £1,000 in England, and health officials are conducting ‘spot checks’ on all of those in self isolation.
The introduction of air bridges will mean Brits can travel to and from the selected countries without the need to quarantine on return.