File photo: Agencies
The British government on Friday revealed the first exemptions from its coronavirus quarantine, with arrivals from Germany, France, Spain and Italy no longer required to self-isolate from July 10.
But in a potentially confusing move, the exemptions -- applied to countries considered to have a low risk of COVID-19 -- will only apply to arrivals into England.
Those arriving into other parts of the UK -- Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland -- will still have to self-quarantine for 14 days, or face a fine.
Britain has suffered the deadliest coronavirus outbreak in Europe, with at least 44,000 dead, but infection rates are falling and it is gradually easing a three-month lockdown.
Since June 8, it has required all overseas arrivals -- including UK residents -- to self-quarantine to avoid the risk of importing new cases from abroad.
The move sparked outrage from airlines already struggling with the effects of global coronavirus shutdowns, as well as reciprocal moves by other countries.
Aware of the many Brits who want to travel abroad this summer, the government said Friday it expected countries on the exempt list to lift any restrictions on UK travellers.
However, it indicated that talks on securing this reciprocal action were still ongoing.
"Today marks the next step in carefully reopening our great nation," Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in a statement.
"Whether you are a holidaymaker ready to travel abroad or a business eager to open your doors again, this is good news for British people and great news for British businesses."
He said the exempt list would be kept under review, saying: "We will not hesitate to move quickly to protect ourselves if infection rates rise in countries we are reconnecting with."
A longer list of countries that will be exempt is expected to be published later Friday, with news reports suggesting as many as 75 countries might be on it.
The Foreign Office also said that from July 4, it would be exempting low-risk countries from its advice warning against all but essential travel overseas.
All passengers arriving in the UK, except those on a small list of exemptions, will still be required to provide authorities with contact information.
Those who have travelled through non-exempt countries in the preceding two weeks will still have to self-isolate.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government had been expected to announced the quarantine exemptions earlier this week, but ministers hinted at disagreements with the devolved administration in Scotland.
Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast would "set out their own approach to exemptions", the UK government said Friday.