Heathrow chief executive criticises costly PCR testing system for travellers
A smattering of Greek islands, the Canaries and Malta could be added to the government’s “green list” on Thursday, raising hopes for an expanded choice of destinations for summer holidays.
International travel for leisure purposes resumed on 17 May in Britain under a traffic light system.
Just 12 destinations are on the UK government’s green “safe” list for travel, which measures the risk of Covid reimportation. The list was first revealed on 7 May, with Portugal the only mainstream holiday country to be included, alongside Gibraltar, Iceland and Israel.
Green list returnees don’t need to quarantine, although they still need to present a negative Covid test before departure to the UK, and a PCR test within two days of arrival.
The red and amber lists are also expected to be shuffled on Thursday.
Follow live for traffic light reshuffle news and reaction.
Spanish and Greek islands remain on Foreign Office ‘safe’ list
The Foreign Office continues to warn against travel to much of Greece and Spain – but not to some of the islands.
FCDO travel advice is the basis for tour operators deciding whether or not to run package holidays.
The islands of Rhodes, Kos, Zakynthos, Corfu and Crete are regarded as low risk by the Foreign Office, along with the Canary Islands.
There is no indication that FCDO advice will be aligned with the decision on changes to the “traffic light” system, however.
Even if the above-mentioned destinations remain amber, the FCDO advice means that British holidaymakers who travel there should not have their travel insurance invalidated,
This is because insurance policies are normally based on Foreign Office guidance, rather than the newly introduced travel traffic light system. If your destination is exempt from the FCDO’s blanket advisory against non-essential travel, your travel insurance should still cover your trip (although always read the small print).
Helen Coffey3 June 2021 12:04
Covid-19 could be ‘many times more prevalent’ in Indonesia than reported
The case for Indonesia moving from amber to the red list in the UK government’s next travel update has gained strength after new reports suggest the country’s Covid-19 rates could be much higher than the official figures.
The country of 270 million has recorded 1.83 million positive cases, but epidemiologists have long believed the true scale of the spread has been obscured by a lack of testing and contact tracing.
The results of Indonesia’s first major seroprevalence studies – which test for antibodies – were revealed to Reuters.
One nationwide study between December and January suggested 15 per cent of Indonesians had already contracted Covid-19 – when official figures at the end of January had recorded infections among only around 0.4 per cent of people.
Even now, Indonesia’s total positive infections are only around 0.7 per cent of the population.
The results of the survey were not unexpected given under reporting, said Pandu Riono, a University of Indonesia epidemiologist who worked on the study carried out with help from the World Health Organisation.
Siti Nadia Tarmizi, a senior health ministry official, said it was possible the study was preliminary, but there might be more cases than officially reported because many cases were asymptomatic.
Travel expert and founder of the PC Agency Paul Charles has predicted that Indonesia is a prime candidate for moving to the red list, alongside Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.
Additional reporting by agencies
Helen Coffey3 June 2021 11:46
Red list arrivals to be separated at Heathrow
Heathrow airport has reopened one of its dormant terminals specifically for arrivals from “red list” countries. The west London airport is currently the main arrival point for travellers to the UK.
With passenger numbers a small fraction of normal levels, Heathrow has been using only half of its four terminals.
Terminals 3 and 4 have been mothballed: keeping a security presence, catering and other operations there was simply uneconomic with so few passengers.
At the same time, some passengers have been obliged to queue for up to six hours at Heathrow with those from red list nations mingling with lower risk travellers.
Starting on 1 June, direct arrivals from red list locations will be separated from other passengers, arriving terminal 3.
A Heathrow spokesperson said: “While opening this facility will be very challenging logistically, our hope is that it will enable Border Force to carry out its duties more efficiently as passenger volumes increase in line with the green list.”
The airport plans to move red list arrivals to Terminal 4 “as soon as operationally possible”. If passenger numbers start to increase significantly, Heathrow hopes to bring Terminal 3 back into normal service.
Read our full report on what it means for travellers here.
Helen Coffey3 June 2021 11:30
Holidaymakers three times as likely to book green list destinations
The government’s advisory against all international leisure barring holidays to green list countries seems to have had an effect.
New research suggests British holidaymakers are almost three times as likely to book a trip to a green destination than to an amber one.
Two in five UK adults said they were considering an overseas holiday in the next 12 months, according to a survey by BVA BDRC, shared with Travel Weekly.
More than half of these (51 per cent) are likely to book a green destination compared with 18 per cent who said they’d consider amber destinations.
Meanwhile, one in four respondents said they would not book anywhere under the current traffic light system.
Asked whether they were confident an overseas trip could go ahead, 32 per cent responded ‘yes’ to a booking for July, 39 per cent for August, 44 per cent for September and 46 per cent for October.
Almost two‑thirds (63 per cent) blamed government restrictions for their lack of confidence.
Helen Coffey3 June 2021 11:10
Ryanair boss calls for holiday destinations to be added to green list
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has called for the government to lift restrictions on travel to the US and holiday hotspots in Europe.
Claiming it was “absolutely imperative” that “big tourist destinations” like Greece and Spain be put on the UK’s travel green list, he told Sky News: “The restrictions should be lifted, we should be allowing British families to travel to the US and Europe, and also to return without having to complete useless PCR forms for people who’ve already been vaccinated.
“Nothing is absolutely safe but it is scientists and doctors’ jobs to urge caution and care and worry.
“The vaccines are effective against the Indian variant, it’s a scariant being used by the science and medical professions to urge caution.
“It’s time that we got on with our lives.”
Europe’s largest airline has also called for the transport secretary to axe the “nonsensical” requirement for green list arrivals to take two PCR tests when they return to the UK, as well as abolishing restrictions for those who are fully vaccinated.
Ryanair urged Grant Shapps to abolish travel restrictions for fully vaccinated passengers, and to get rid of the current requirement to present a negative day two PCR test for green list arrivals, which the airline says “only adds cost and stress to UK citizens despite returning from low-risk EU destinations”.
Helen Coffey3 June 2021 10:55
Italy ‘very much open’ and hopes to be on green list
Italy is “very much open” to British tourists and hopes it will be considered for the UK green list, according to the ambassador.
The Italian ambassador to the UK, Raffaele Trombetta, has said that “Italy is open to British tourists” and that its vaccination programme is progressing well.
When asked by Sky News whether he thought Italy should be put on the green list for travel, Mr Trombetta said: “I do actually.
“We are doing quite well now with our vaccination programme.
“More than 55 million doses have been distributed to people with a high percentage of Italian people who have received both doses.”
He added: “And this is going on and by the end of this month we estimate that a large majority of our population will have been vaccinated.
“Italy is open to British tourists.
“And we know how much British people like going to Italy.
“So very much open and very much hope that the UK government, when they have to review the list they will also consider Italy for the green list.”
According to data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Italy’s current 14-day case notification rate per 100,000 people is 135.77. For comparison, Malta, which is a very strong contender for the green list in today’s review, has a current rate of 9.33.
Helen Coffey3 June 2021 10:44
Boris Johnson says government ‘will not hesitate’ to remove countries from green list
The Prime Minister has said the government “will not hesitate” in removing countries from the scant green list if necessary.
Speaking on Wednesday about the imminent update to the traffic light travel lists, Boris Johnson was otherwise tight-lipped.
“We’re going to try to allow people to travel, as I know that many people want to, but we’ve got to be cautious and we’ve got to continue to put countries on the red list, on the amber list, when that is necessary,” he said.
“I want you to know we will have no hesitation in moving countries from the green list to the amber list to the red list, if we have to do so.
“The priority is to continue the vaccination rollout, to protect the people of this country.”
The government currently only advises leisure travel to green list countries, although as of 17 May it is perfectly legal to travel abroad on holiday to any country you wish (provided, of course, they’ll let you in).
Helen Coffey3 June 2021 10:35
Pound rises against the euro
The pound is currently up 1.2 per cent against the euro compared to the start of May as the government prepares to announce which countries will be added to the green list later today.
Ian Strafford-Taylor, CEO at travel money specialist FairFX, said:
Helen Coffey3 June 2021 10:20
Portugal could move from green to amber
Portugal, the only mainstream holiday destination on the green list that is currently accessible to Britons, is reportedly under review and could turn amber in today’s update.
Boris Johnson warned last night that the Government “will not hesitate” in moving countries off the green list.
With Covid rates on the rise, Portugal is one of the key green destinations currently being assessed by the government, reports the Telegraph.
However, although the country reported its highest number of infections yesterday since March, it still boasts a low number of cases per 100,000 residents over the last 14 days – one of the key factors in determining countries’ classifications under the traffic light system. It currently stands at 55.60, according to data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
The final decision will be heavily influenced by scientists from the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC), who are meeting with government today to discuss recommendations.
Helen Coffey3 June 2021 10:12
Testing capacity could be overwhelmed, warns expert
If the green list expands as expected later today, it could spell trouble for the UK’s testing capacity, a travel expert warned.
Which? travel editor Rory Boland told Sky News that “too many people are not getting their test back on time.”
Holiday favourites such as Malta, the Spanish Balearic Islands and some Greek islands have been named as contenders to go green.
But Mr Boland said this could further stretch a private testing system that is already struggling to meet demand.
“Providers to us were saying that it’s simply not set up to deal with the numbers of people who need to use it,” he said.
“So if we see the Canary Islands, Spain, Greece – some big destinations that hundreds of thousands of people want to go to – turn up on the green list, it’s hard to see how that system is going to cope.
“It is at risk of being overwhelmed.”
Helen Coffey3 June 2021 09:52