Plans to ease quarantine for millions of holidaymakers are in chaos after the government failed to give a launch date.
Plans have been expected all week for a “traffic light” system, with a list of “green” or “amber” countries from which Brits won’t have to quarantine when they arrive home.
No10 also wanted to go a step further and announce “air bridges” – a two-way agreement with named countries, where Brits would be promised no quarantine at either end.
The plans would have ended the blanket 14-day quarantine on almost all arrivals into the UK.
But the scheme descended into infighting today as the UK government and Nicola Sturgeon each blamed each other for a hold-up.
Questioned today, Downing Street could not say when the “traffic light” list would take effect – despite journalists previously being told it was “likely” from Monday 6 July.
Boris Johnson’s spokesman was also unable to say how many countries would be on the list after conflicting reports.
And No10 gave no indication that there will be separate “air bridges” for countries popular with Brits.
The plan is expected to be announced tomorrow, but No10 would not give a cast-iron guarantee on the date.
There are crucial differences between “air bridges” and the government’s planned “traffic light” system.
The traffic light system only deals with what will happen when people arrive back from a country into the UK.
An “air bridge” would go further, and be a two-way agreement ensuring Brits aren’t quarantined when they arrive at their holiday destination.
Ministers had been hoping for full-blown “air bridges”, but they’ve been fraught with problems. Greece this week banned all UK flights to the country until July 15.
Downing Street was asked three times today if there would still be a bilateral “air bridge” system, alongside the traffic light system.
But the PM’s spokesman did not say there would be, instead replying: “As we set out earlier this week by written ministerial statement, we will be easing health measures at the border by allowing passengers arriving from specific countries and territories to be exempted from self-isolation requirements.”
He added: “There’s no change from the position set out in the written ministerial statement”.
Asked if the policy was a “shambles”, the PM’s spokesman replied: “The reason the quarantine policy was put in place was to prevent the importation of new cases of the virus when the British public have worked so hard to bring the spread of the virus here under control.
“In terms of the next steps in the quarantine policy, we’ll be setting those out this week.”
As many as 75 countries could be exempted from the quarantine restrictions when the list is finally published, reports have suggested.
The list will lift the Foreign Office ban on non-essential travel to nearly all EU destinations, the British territories including Bermuda and Gibraltar, as well as Turkey, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand, the Daily Telegraph reported.
All 75 have been judged sufficiently low-risk destinations based on their Covid-19 situation.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps suggested in the Commons that the Scottish Government was delaying an announcement on the scheme.
But the Holyrood administration said the claim was “completely unfounded” and accused the UK Government of failing to keep Scottish ministers fully updated on the plans.
First Minister Ms Sturgeon said Mr Shapps had misrepresented the situation “which is disappointing but sadly not surprising”.
Downing Street said in response: “We’ve taken a four nation approach to quarantine and we’ve been working closely with the devolved administrations on the next steps.”