The government is expected to set up air bridges and to give countries red, green or amber status depending on how safe they are.
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The government is preparing to announce that people travelling from certain countries will no longer be required to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival – meaning people will be able to go on holiday there.
The government plans to introduce a traffic light system that would classify countries as safe or otherwise, depending on the prevalence of coronavirus.
Countries will either be graded green, meaning they are safer than the UK; amber, meaning they are less safe than green countries; or red, which will result in any passengers returning from them still needing to isolate for a fortnight.
It comes as the European Union also finalises a list of countries whose citizens will be allowed to enter.
The UK government list of “air bridge” destinations is not yet known, but countries are expected to be classified as follows.
Green or Amber
For comparison, the UK’s two-week infection rate – meaning the number of new cases per 100,000 in the previous 14 days up to 22 June – is 27.3.
Current two-week infection rate (as of 22 June): 5.8 cases /100,000 people
France has been seeing a significant decline in the number of cases of COVID-19 in the last fortnight and has recently reopened the Eiffel Tower, signalling its desire to see the tourism sector revived.
Current two-week infection rate: 2.5 cases/100,000 people
Greece expressed its wish to open an air bridge last week, in an indication of the country’s eagerness to reopen to tourists, citing its generally low levels of coronavirus infection. However, it has since delayed allowing UK tourists into the country until 15 July at the earliest, with the possibility of extending the restrictions afterwards. Cases in Greece rose by 25% in the last fortnight, compared to the previous one, but numbers remain low.
Current two-week infection rate: 10.1 cases/100,000 people
Spain’s hard-hit tourism sector had to receive a morale booster from King Felipe VI last week, who visited a Canary Islands beach, after its hospitality industry was pulverised. The country had one of the world’s highest death tallies but is seeing infections fall steadily.
Current two-week infection rate: 6.3 cases/100,000 people
Italy was another country that was ravaged by the disease, with many outbreaks across Europe blamed on people coming from early-hit northern Italy. It has seen infection rates continue to fall.
Current two-week infection rate: 11.7 cases/100,000 people
The Dutch government announced last week that it would be further easing lockdown measures to allow group visits to restaurants and some crowds at sports, after the country saw small but sustained falls in the number of cases.
Current two-week infection rate: 21.3 cases/100,000 people
Turkey has said its daily infections are higher than anticipated but are not severe enough to warrant reintroducing eased restrictions, having seen rates – which are still fairly high – fall significantly.
Current two-week infection rate: too small to be statistically significant
Although Croatia’s rates of infection since the start of the crisis are relatively low – 56.7 cases/100,000 overall – the number of infections being reported has been oscillating sharply, with 70 in the fortnight up to 22 June and just 3 in the two weeks before that.
Current two-week infection rate: 2.9 cases/100,000 people
Infections rates in Finland are improving dramatically, with nearly 60% fewer cases in the fortnight up to 22 June compared with the fortnight before.
Current two-week infection rate: 11.6 cases/100,000 people
Belgium has the worst case fatality rate in the world, and had a high rate of infection during the European peak, but in recent weeks has seen steady declines in rates.
Current two-week infection rate: 6.7 cases/100,000 people
Apart from localised outbreaks, such as at a meat-processing factory in the Gutersloh area, Germany has seen its rates fall slowly, from a relatively low level in the outset.
Current two-week infection rate: 3.7 cases/100,000 people
Norway went into lockdown early which appears to have paid off as it has relatively low rates overall, and is seeing rates continue to fall slowly.
Current two-week infection rate: 43.2 cases/100,000 people
Portugal, which appeared early on to be less badly affected than its neighbour Spain, has been seeing rates pick up in recent weeks, so that in the last two weeks it has one of the worst rates of infection in Europe. There are reports of people not heeding lockdown restrictions.
Current two-week infection rate: 111.7 cases/100,000 people
Even worse than Portugal is Sweden, with a two-week rate approaching that of many South American countries, after the country was criticised for failing to lock down in the same way as other nations.
It is not known if the USA will be categorised red but the fact that its two-week infection rate is nearly as high as Sweden’s, and it is not expected to be on the EU’s list of countries whose citizens can enter the EU, suggests it may also be categorised red.