Switzerland and Jamaica are set to be removed from England’s travel corridor list meaning arrivals from the countries will have to quarantine for two weeks, the Guardian has learned.
It is understood that ministers in Westminster have agreed to take the two countries off the safe list amid concerns over rising Covid-19 infection rates, but they will add Cuba, where the situation has improved, in a move due to be announced later on Thursday.
The Czech Republic could also be removed from the corridor list but ministers are waiting for the most up-to-date infection figures to be released on Thursday before making a final call.
There is likely to be a window between the latest policy change announcement and implementation, with similar moves in recent weeks for France and other countries coming into effect from 4am on Saturday.
Scotland removed Switzerland from its own travel corridor list last week as devolved nations have autonomy over quarantine measures. Talks are due to take place on Thursday afternoon between the devolved nations before a final announcement, although broadly similar changes have been made by England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in recent weeks.
The developments are welcome news for holidaymakers with trips booked next week to Greece, a popular destination for UK tourists, as it looks set to stay on the corridor list for now although there is concern about imported cases from tourist hotspots in the country, including the island of Mykonos.
Gibraltar, Ireland, Denmark, Iceland and Turkey are understood to be among other areas being closely monitored by officials.
It has emerged that plans are under discussion that would enable UK travellers to fly to New York without having to quarantine on their return from this autumn, according to an industry figure.
Paul Charles, the chief executive of the travel PR firm PC Agency, said he had been told that officials at the Department for Transport had held early-stage discussions with the US Department of Transportation about opening a travel corridor to New York. Charles called the talks of a corridor “positive”, adding: “That is vital, it is one of the busiest areas in the world.
“It’s vital, not only for business to get going again, but families to see each other again, families who haven’t seen each other since February. It would send a very strong signal if they could open that corridor without any quarantine this autumn and that is the intention.”
A spokesperson for the DfT 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.”
The cumulative number of Covid-19 cases over seven days per 100,000 people stands at 22 in Switzerland, 20.8 in Jamaica and 20.2 in the Czech Republic, compared with the UK’s 11.6, according to PC Agency’s data analysis. The seven-day cumulative rates are a key statistic closely watched by Whitehall officials, with 20 per 100,000 understood to be the quarantine threshold.
On Tuesday, Scotland’s justice secretary, Humza Yousaf, tweeted: “Last week saw some people criticising Scot Govt for removing Switzerland from list of countries that are exempt from quarantine, while UK Govt retained exemption. Looks certain UK Govt will follow Scotland’s lead. Will have 4 Nations call later this week.”