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.
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
Greek ferry strike
For those already embarking on amber list travel, ferry services to the Greek islands have been disrupted after a seamen’s union went ahead with a strike that a court had declared illegal.
Union members blockaded the entrance to ferries in the main port of Piraeus, preventing anyone from boarding.
Hundreds of passengers with their suitcases gathered at the port, saying the ferry companies had not informed them of the strike, and heated arguments broke out between passengers and striking workers.
The union had declared a 24-hour strike to protest against a draft labour bill being debated in parliament, which workers say will erode their rights.
Other unions have declared strikes for June 10 as part of a general strike.
“Today’s strike, as you know, had been deemed illegal,” shipping and island policy minister Giannis Plakiotakis said.
“The choice of one union to move outside the legal framework is a wrong tactic, which turns against passengers and doesn’t serve the union movement.”
He said the ministry intervened, with the union eventually relenting and allowing passengers to board. The ferries set sail after several hours’ delay.
Helen Coffey3 June 2021 09:43
Traffic light travel myths
Despite the fact that the UK’s traffic light travel system, which categorises countries as red, amber or green with restrictions to match, was first announced on 7 May and launched on 17 May, many travellers are still confused by the myriad rules.
“There are still many misapprehensions about the traffic light system,” writes The Independent’s travel correspondent, Simon Calder.
For example, while it could be easy to assume that a green rating means you can travel to that destination, this isn’t necessarily true.
“It merely means you need not quarantine when you return to the UK,” writes Simon.
“Most of the places on the existing green list – including Australia, New Zealand and Singapore – certainly don’t want British visitors right now. Or, you can reach them only by going through an amber list nation: a good example is the Faroe Islands, accessible only via Copenhagen in amber list Denmark.
“Anyone hoping to visit a green list country must check that they will be admitted. In some locations, that means having completed a full course of vaccination.”
Read Simon’s full myth busting report here.
Helen Coffey3 June 2021 09:32
Airlines launch flight sales
In a nod to the green list possibly expanding later today, several airlines are offering deals.
Wizz Air has announced a 24-hour sale on all routes, offering passengers 15 per cent off flights booked today departing on or before 30 June 2021.
Meanwhile, Jet2holidays is selling a range of package deals; for example, seven nights in a self-catering apartment in Funchal, Madeira, for £399pp including flights and transfers, departing 28 June from Birmingham.
Helen Coffey3 June 2021 09:24
Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia could turn red
Travel expert and founder of the PC Agency Paul Charles has thrown his own predictions for the green list into the mix.
He tweeted: “We’re likely to see a thin green list announced Thursday – destinations which should go green are Malta, Finland, Grenada, Antigua, Turks and Caicos, Santorini, Mykonos.”
He also said that Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia – many of which have previously fared well during the pandemic – are “all being considered” for the red list.
“Summer is being squeezed, affecting recovery of jobs and livelihoods in the travel sector,” he added.
Helen Coffey3 June 2021 09:15