POLITICS
26/06/2020 17:38 BST

How 'Air Bridges' Could Save Britain's Summer

Cabinet ministers met on Friday to thrash out plans for potential travel corridors abroad in the wake of Covid-19.

GLYN KIRK via Getty Images
Keen beachgoers prompted the Bournemouth ultimatum this week.

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A Bridge Too Far?

“Don’t tear the pants out of it”, deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van Tam famously told the public when lockdown restrictions were first eased at the end of May.

While that advice, delivered at a No.10 press conference (how we could do with one of those today) was followed by the vast majority of the public, the scenes on Bournemouth beach this week show compliance with social distancing is waning.

Is it any surprise when Boris Johnson has declared the end of “hibernation”, called for a return to “bustle”, and set a countdown clock ticking to what many will see as a day of national celebration on July 4 when the pubs reopen?

‌The Police Federation has already warned of the potential for a “perfect storm” next weekend and a “summer of discontent”.

‌England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty has also raised the alarm, warning that coronavirus cases “will rise again” if the scenes of Thursday’s “major incident” in Bournemouth are repeated.

‌The prime minister today warned of the danger of a “serious spike” in infections if people take “liberties”, in a week where he has trumpeted the return to freedom as part of efforts to kickstart the UK’s ailing economy.

‌Health secretary Matt Hancock said the government has the power to shut down beauty spots but Downing Street made clear that overstretched local authorities are in charge, despite massive cuts in council funding under the Tories.

‌Of course, easing the lockdown is both necessary to avoid economic collapse, yet risky in the context of a second wave in coronavirus infections.

‌And perhaps rather than shutting down beaches, Johnson is hoping to pull a different lever to relieve the pressure on beauty spots and resorts in the UK – air bridges.

‌Cabinet ministers met today to hammer out the plan to end 14-day quarantine for incoming travellers to the UK as long as they are coming from certain lower-risk countries, most likely in Europe.

‌There was already an urgency about the proposals, given the widespread concern among Tory MPs and business groups like the CBI about the damaging impact on businesses at a time when coronavirus is largely in retreat in Europe.

‌Influential 1922 committee chair and lockdown-sceptic Sir Graham Brady even used his question during Johnson’s statement on easing restrictions to warn the PM that he needed to come up with a plan for air bridges “within days”.

‌But the plans could now take on an extra significance by giving some cooped up Britons an outlet – a trip to Spanish or Portuguese beaches rather than Bournemouth or Brighton – and a possible way to relieve staycation pressure and save the British summer from the “discontent”.

‌The weekend papers are likely to be full of the details – but the government will have a much harder job persuading people to fly abroad when the already-tiresome rigmarole of travelling via an airport is only going to get worse in the times of Covid-19, with passengers told to check in all baggage and facing the prospect of temperature checks at destinations.

‌And that’s not even mentioning Spanish media reports of a potential shark sighting off the Costa del Sol.

‌It may be a good move to accompany any announcement with the return of the No.10 press briefing on Monday.

Quote Of The Day

“In some parts of the world – I won’t name them – you have got spikes, really serious spikes, in the instance of the disease so it is crucial that people understand that on July 4 we get this right, we do this in a balanced way.”

– Prime minister Boris Johnson.

Cheat Sheet

A suspected knife attacker has been shot dead after a police officer and five others were stabbed during a “serious incident” in Glasgow city centre.

Boris Johnson has warned of the danger of a “serious spike” in coronavirus infections if people take “liberties” with social distancing rules. The prime minister sounded the alarm after a “major incident” was declared on Thursday as thousands flocked to the beach to sunbathe in the warm weather.

Moves to stamp out bullying and harassment in parliament would have been “seriously” undermined if MPs had not voted this week to make the process fully independent, the Clerk of the Commons John Benger has said in an article for HuffPost UK’s opinion section.

‌Migrant women subjected to domestic abuse are being left unsupported by the authorities and at the mercy of their tormentors, dozens of activists have warned.

What I’m Listening To

Sick man: how Boris Johnson’s brush with death revealed a lethal amateurism at the heart of government – Tortoise

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