Dr David Nabarro, a World Health Organisation (WHO) COVID-19 special envoy, urged the Government to “be careful” in setting up coronavirus air bridges between countries to restart international travel. He told the BBC’s Today programme: “We’re right at this delicate phase where we can actually push this virus right down, suppress it, and get on with life and have a good life. But if we are just a little bit careless and we get one of these major what we call spreader events where a lot of people get ill and then suddenly our health services get overwhelmed again, in the coming months or two we’re going to look at each other and feel really frustrated.
“So please when it comes to restarting international travel be careful. Make sure that these air bridges are between places with just about the same risk profile. Then it makes sense.
“But don’t be pushed into establishing air bridges that might then raise the risk of one or other country having a much higher level of disease.
“We would be very cross in two or three months’ time with ourselves if we don’t get this right.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce on Friday the Government’s plans for air bridges, which will allow Britons to go on holiday to certain destinations without needing to quarantine for 14 days on their return, the Telegraph reported.
The first of these air bridges will allow holidaymakers to travel to “low-risk” European destinations, including France, Italy, Spain, Greece and Germany, from July 4.
Henry Smith, Conservative chairman of the all-party Future of Aviation group, said the plan was a “welcome first step” but urged the Prime Minister to widen the bridges to the whole of the EU.
He told the Telegraph: “EU countries have had a similar, if not better, coronavirus experience than us. I think that is the most straightforward and eloquent way to approach it.”
Walk-in centres for COVID-19 testing are also being set up to make it easier for people without cars to get tested for the virus.
Six centres are being trialled in Newcastle, Rochdale, Leeds, Brent, Newham and Slough, with the latter described as a hybrid drive and walkthrough.
The exact location of the centres has not been confirmed by officials but one is understood to be on a basketball court, and there have been reports they will spring up in empty shops and car parks.
The WHO doctor said it is “touch and go” that local virus outbreaks can be controlled.
He said: “I’m pretty confident that most European countries are going to do well.
“We’ve seen for example in Poland, Germany, Spain, a really effective response to these kinds of resurgences but it is touch and go.
“I really think that Chris Whitty’s (England’s chief medical officer) point that ‘the virus is still in general circulation’ is important.
“So let’s hope that we are able to prevent these small clusters and little outbreaks from becoming overwhelming as we had earlier this year.”
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Commenting on reports of crowded beaches across the UK on Thursday, the hottest day so far this year, Dr Nabarro said he was not “really concerned” by images of crowds on beaches, but feared what was going on “out of sight”.
He told the Today programme: “I don’t personally get really concerned when I see people outside in the open, because as you have just said, transmission is less likely to occur there.
“But it’s what happens out of sight that I’m more worried about. People going to the toilet and being in a queue and perhaps there being transmission there.
“Or particularly the person who is cleaning the toilet being exposed to lots of folk with disease, people getting on the public transport and exposing bus drivers and the like.
“That’s where I get nervous because I actually feel this vast amount of movement that’s going on – that is absolutely essential for people to come out and enjoy themselves again – does come at a risk.
“And I just ask everybody, don’t just think of yourself. Think of the other person who you might be exposing to the virus because sometimes they don’t have a choice.”
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