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UK traffic light system hit by mixed official advice

written by Adam Thorn | May 19, 2021

EasyJet has secured a lifeline loan from the UK’s Bank of England (Unsplash)

Britain’s traffic light system allowing international travel descended into farce on Tuesday as different government ministers appeared to significantly contradict each other on what the rules were.

The confusion surrounds whether Britons are allowed to go on holiday to ‘amber list’ countries – which require home quarantine on return – or only visit them for essential purposes.

Currently, the vast majority of EU countries are on the amber list, with green destinations largely limited to Gibraltar and Portugal.

Simon Hart, the Welsh Secretary, argued “some people” might consider a holiday to an amber list country as essential, and asked people to use their “common sense” to make that decision.

Similarly, George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, advised that people could visit amber list countries to visit friends. “We don’t want to stop travel altogether and the reason that we have the amber list is there will be reasons why people feel they need to travel, either to visit family or indeed to visit friends,” he said.

Yet the pair were seemingly overruled by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who said people shouldn’t holiday to those countries at all, which were off-limits unless citizens “absolutely” had to visit for a “pressing family or urgent business reason”.

He said amber countries were “not somewhere where you should be going on holiday”.


Finally, Lord Bethell of Romford, a health minister, argued that people should stay at home and not holiday to any destination on any list.

“Travelling is dangerous,” he said. “That is not news to us, or to the people who get on those planes in the first place. We do ask people, particularly as we go into the summer, travelling is not for this year, please stay in this country.”

His comments come after Prime Minister Johnson hinted last week that it’s unlikely that more countries would be added to the quarantine-free green list. The comments are significant for the aviation industry because 17.4 million Brits visited Spain alone in 2019, pre-COVID.

Last week, the UK released its new traffic light system, which indicated which countries Brits can travel to when international travel resumed on 17 May.

The vast majority of the world remains on the UK’s ‘amber’ or ‘red’ lists, which, under the UK’s traffic light system, require travellers to spend 10 days in either self-isolation or hotel quarantine, respectively.

All travellers, regardless of ‘green’, ‘amber’ or ‘red’ status, will be required to fill out a passenger locator declaration form, as well as present a negative PCR COVID test before they fly to the UK.

Notably, top tourist and airline revenue-driving destinations – such as Spain, France, Italy and the US – have all fallen on the ‘amber’ list, which means travellers will need to self-isolate for up to 10 days.

These travellers can perform a ‘test to release’ PCR test on day five after entering the UK, and may then leave isolation should they receive a negative result.

Meanwhile, Turkey, another tourist spot, was placed on the ‘red’ list, which will see anyone entering the UK required to spend 10 days in hotel quarantine at their own cost.

The 12 countries that made it to the UK’s green list, which doesn’t require any self-isolation or quarantine, include Australia, New Zealand, Portugal, Israel, Singapore, Brunei, Iceland, Gibraltar, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands and St Helena, Tristan de Cunha, Ascension Island.

The news comes despite Spain appearing to earlier confirm British travellers would be able to visit in June.

The country’s Tourism Minister, Fernando Valdes Verelst, has revealed the two countries’ governments are planning to collaborate on a digital health pass to allow travel.

Speaking at the World Travel and Tourism Council’s summit in Mexico, Minister Verelst said, “June will be the start of the recovery of tourism in Spain.

“By then, we will have a digital vaccination certificate in place and we will be able to reopen our borders.”


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