British government ministers are studying plans for regional air bridges which would allow business travellers and holidaymakers to come to the UK from “low-risk” areas, such as New York City, within countries which are “red-listed” because of their overall high coronavirus rates.
A present, New York’s seven-day infection rate is just 7.2 cases per 100,000, lower than England’s 11.3, yet it is still “red-listed” meaning any US visitor to the UK has to enter quarantine for 14 days.
A source said, “There are discussions going on at a very senior level around opening up London and New York”
“They are at a very early stage but it is vital to get the business going with a major trading partner especially as we near Brexit.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed last week ministers were looking at the possibility of “regional travel corridors” which would allow quarantine-free flights from “low risk” areas within countries with high coronavirus rates.
A spokesman for the Department of Transport said: “Conversations between Governments in other countries on a whole range of issues take place regularly.
“Public health remains the UK’s top priority and we are committed to tackling this virus while enabling a sustainable and responsible return to international travel.
“We keep the data for all countries and territories under constant review and will not add a country to our travel corridor list unless safe to do so.”
Paul Charles, chief executive of the travel consultancy The PC Agency, said the US-UK talks would heap pressure on the Government to introduce coronavirus testing to allow incoming passengers to avoid quarantine.
He said: “The US will only agree to this if there is proper testing in place in the UK. The delay in establishing a testing policy is in danger of holding up the opening of commercially-important travel corridors.”
An airport industry source has said: “New York is the financial centre of the most powerful economic force in the world so we need to be able to fly there.”
Mr Shapps has repeatedly played down the idea of airport testing, saying swab tests would fail to spot almost 90 per cent of asymptomatic cases.
But a growing band of some 80 MPs, including 40 Tories, have warned that failing to introduce airport testing would have a disastrous impact on the travel industry and wider economy.
Senior aviation bosses, including Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye, say the current quarantine measures are costing the economy £60million a day in lost spending by foreign visitors.
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