The UK government has suspended all travel corridors until at least February 15, “to protect us against the risk of as yet unidentified new strains” of Covid-19.

The move – which was announced over the weekend and came into force from 0400 today (Monday January 18) – temporarily removes the existing corridor provisions which had allowed travellers from certain “low-risk” destinations to avoid ten days of self-isolation on arrival.

It applies to all arrivals into the UK from outside the Common Travel Area, including British and Irish nationals.

The ten-day requirement to self-isolate can be reduced to five days through the Test and Release scheme, although note that this option cannot be used for arrivals from certain destinations, including British and Irish nationals coming from several Central and South America countries, as well as Portugal and Cape Verde.

“We are operating in a completely new environment in our fight against Covid-19, with several worrying new strains of the virus emerging across the globe,” said Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

“Now more than ever, as we make strides vaccinating people up and down the country, we need to take advantage of all measures available to us – and these robust emergency precautions will help us protect the nation to ensure we continue to make progress.”

Today also sees new Covid-19 testing requirements come into effect – all travellers must present a negative test result before starting their journey to the UK. More details on this, the type of tests which are accepted, and exemptions to the rule, can be seen at:

Government outlines Covid-19 testing requirements for entry into England

This weekend aviation minister Robert Courts confirmed that a financial support scheme for airports in England will open this month.

In a tweet Courts said that “The Airport and Ground Operations Support Scheme will help airports reduce their costs and we will be aiming to provide grants before the end of this financial year”.

Commenting on the suspension of the travel corridors Tim Alderslade, Chief Executive of Airlines UK, said:

“Travel corridors were a lifeline for the industry last summer and the Government were right to bring them in when they did. But things change and there’s no doubting this is a serious health emergency and Ministers need to act to keep borders safe and the public protected.

“We therefore support this latest measure, on the assumption that we will work with Government – when the time is right – to remove these restrictions when it is safe to do so and start to open up our sector again, to support the UK’s economic recovery.”

And in a statement IATA said:

“The International Air Transport Association (IATA) recognizes that the UK government is taking the steps it considers necessary to protect public health. While we understand this decision, it is of course deeply disappointing to see all travel corridors shut down, and universal testing and quarantine requirements imposed on all arrivals.

“Airlines understand and support the priority on protecting public health in the face of the global Covid-19 crisis. But, after nearly a year of battling the virus, the absence of coordination among governments is shocking. Since the beginning of the year we have seen Canada, the UK and the US introduce stricter measures to address concerns over developments in the Covid-19 crisis with little consistency between them from the perspective of the traveler.

“The weeks ahead could bring even greater challenges in the efforts to control Covid-19 before we begin to realize the benefits of lockdowns and vaccinations. To maintain orderly facilities for essential travel and confidence in the measures that are being taken by governments, it is critical that governments work together more closely.

“In the case of the UK, the government must also understand the severe economic impact that imposing universal testing and quarantine measures will have. To maintain a viable air transport sector capable of leading the recovery, a financial support lifeline is critical.”

Meanwhile Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association, said:

“The BTA recognises that public safety must come first. With all travel corridors closed from Monday, it is imperative that the Government issues detailed information on where essential travellers can get acceptable tests to meet the UK’s entry requirements.

“There are many essential workers who need to travel – medical researchers, energy suppliers and humanitarians to name a few. They must be able to undertake their vital work with confidence in procedures, and safe in the knowledge they can return home.”