The USA, where Donald Trump has closed the borders, is unlikely to be opened until after November, although that will depend on whether states can reduce their coronavirus rates.
New Zealand is planning to keep its borders closed with a 14-day quarantine until March because of fears of a second winter wave of coronavirus. That may change if a vaccine is developed and proves effective by then.
The UK bridges policy is expected to be finalised at a Covid-19 strategy meeting on Thursday with Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office Minister, Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, and Priti Patel, the Home Secretary.
Mr Shapps is understood to have been pressing for a more ambitious, bigger opening of “travel corridors” in the initial phase, describing them on Wednesday as a “massive priority” to reinvigorate the aviation industry, help rebuild the economy and enable Britons to enjoy overseas summer sun.
The criteria for deciding which countries, to be published on Monday, is focused on the virus infection rate, whether it is rising or falling and whether the prospective destination has a test and trace system to limit any outbreaks and social distancing rules as strict as the UK’s.
It will be set against their popularity as destinations for Britons and the economic case, which could mean dozens of countries in the first two waves.
Mr Shapps told MPs on Wednesday: “You can see there are a lot of complexities.
“I don’t want to be evasive but I don’t also want to give people false hope, which is why I need to wait until the end of the process and wait until June 29.”
The European Commission has warned that it would be discriminatory to allow travel corridors between some but not all EU countries with similar “low-risk” coronavirus profiles.
Backbenchers are making similar pleas. Henry Smith, the chairman of the cross-party Future of Aviation group, said: “I would like to see air corridors across the whole of the EU and Schengen area.”
The Department for Transport, however, argues that there is no legal impediment to bilateral deals. “We would regard that as their problem. I don’t think you can imagine Brussels trying to tell the Spanish: ‘You can’t take Britons,” said a minister.
The moves came as the airport ground handling company Swissport announced plans to cut more than 4,500 jobs. The Airport Operators’ Association warned in a report on Wednesday of 20,000 job losses at airports and a further 100,000 in associated businesses.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), on Wednesday joined BA’s parent company, Ryanair and Easyjet in a legal challenge to ditch quarantine because of the economic damage.