Seven Greek islands are being removed from England’s list of locations exempt from 14-day Covid quarantine, in a significant shift in the government’s travel corridor policy.
Speaking in the Commons on Monday, the UK transport secretary, Grant Shapps, announced that arrivals from the Greek islands will have to isolate for two weeks on their return to England from Wednesday at 4am but not those visiting the country’s mainland.
The islands are Lesvos, Tinos, Serifos, Mykonos, Crete, Santorini and Zakynthos.
Downing Street has faced pressure in recent weeks to consider implementing so-called regional travel corridors whereby arrivals from parts of countries that have lower Covid infections rates are exempted from quarantine restrictions.
However, Shapps stopped short of saying the government would be implementing regional corridors within parts of the country’s mainland but that it could do so with islands.
The government is also being lobbied by the airline industry to introduce airport testing for arrivals in a bid to reduce quarantine times. Shapps said government officials were working with health experts to cut the quarantine period without adding to the infection risk.
England’s move follows last week’s decision by the Welsh government, which like other devolved nations has its own powers on the issue, that it was removing six Greek islands – Mykonos, Zakynthos, Lesvos, Paros, Antiparos and Crete – from its own travel corridor but not the whole of the country.
Separately, Scotland announced it was removing Greece from its own corridor.
Following a rise in the number of Covid cases, the Scottish government also removed Portugal – which was only added to the UK’s travel corridor last month – but England and Northern Ireland have so far resisted doing the same.
The Welsh government removed Portugal too but said it was exempting the islands of the Azores and Madeira.