We must be ‘careful’ with international travel, says Matt Hancock
Transport secretary Grant Shapps cited fears over “a mutation of the Delta variant”, the virus mutation wreaking havoc in India, for plunging Portugal into the amber category, joining most of Europe. The mutation is linked to Nepal.
The decision was made by the government after an “almost doubling” in the country’s coronavirus positive test rate and the discovery of 68 cases of the Indian variant, including some with a mutation previously seen in Nepal.
Holidaymakers in the Atlantic nation now face a scramble home before the 8 June deadline.
No other countries joined the green list, while seven were added to the red list.
One slim ray of hope came from France, which announced today that, from 9 June, fully vaccinated British holidaymakers will be allowed to enter the country, with no requirement to quarantine. However, France remains on Britain’s amber list, necessitating a 10-day quarantine and two PCR tests for all inbound travellers to the UK.
Follow live for industry reaction and any green list updates.
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Helen Coffey4 June 2021 11:32
Brits who are fully vaccinated against Covid can enter France from next week
Brits who are fully vaccinated against coronavirus can enter France without needing an “essential reason” from next week.
The border will open on 9 June for those who can provide proof of having received both jabs. However, British visitors will still need to provide a negative Covid test.
A new document released in Paris on Friday called ‘Strategy for Reopening Borders’ outlines plans for what is effectively a vaccine passport.
Documents issued by organisations including Britain’s NHS which prove a double vaccination against coronavirus will be sufficient to get into France.
“Europeans vaccinated against Covid-19 will be able to enter France without a PCR test from 9 June, which proof of a negative test – PCR or antigen – will still be required for travellers from the United Kingdom and the United States,” said a French government source.
“Those who have had a full vaccination for at least14 days on the date of travel (and four weeks for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine) are considered to be vaccinated.”
Unvaccinated travellers from the UK must still have a “compelling reason” to enter and must self-isolate for seven days.
France remains on the UK’s amber list, which means arrivals to Britain from there are required to self-isolate for 10 days and pay for two PCR tests.
Additional reporting by agencies
Helen Coffey4 June 2021 11:17
UAE ‘disappointed’ to remain on UK’s travel red list
The UAE has said it is ‘disappointed’ to remain on the UK’s travel red list, claiming it is “currently one of the safest countries in the world in relation to Covid-19”.
The Emirates, which include British favourite Dubai, cited their advanced vaccination programme when arguing the country should be upgraded to amber.
The UAE is currently second globally after Gibraltar in terms of its vaccination rate, with 133 doses administered per 100 people and over 13.1m doses administered overall. According to Financial Times research, the UAE is the most vaccinated country with a population over one million people in the world.
Following the UK government’s latest announcement, UAE Ambassador to the UK, Mansoor Abulhoul, said: “It is disappointing to see that the UAE has remained on the UK’s red travel list. We have best-in-class health and safety infrastructure to protect visitors and residents. This includes rapid testing, social distancing and sanitisation procedures at our airports, as well as Emirates and Etihad airlines fully sanitising all planes. Additionally, the UAE is among the top countries in the world for both vaccination rate and its testing programme.
“We have strict controls to guard against troubling variants and have bespoke travel arrangements with several countries for vaccinated passengers, including Greece and Italy, and we look forward to negotiating similar solutions with other countries. Our aim is to allow families and friends separated by COVID-19 to reunite as soon as possible and to resume our crucial business and leisure travel links.”
Helen Coffey4 June 2021 11:01
Simon Calder calls latest government review a ‘death warrant’ for the travel industry
The Independent’s esteemed travel correspondent, Simon Calder, has called the latest government review of its traffic light system a “death warrant” for the travel industry.
In an impassioned piece following yesterday’s announcement that no new countries would be added to the green list, while Portugal would be downgraded to amber, he writes: “I don’t believe the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, hates the travel industry. But he evidently loves power.
“To maximise the chance that the electorate will continue to support the Conservative government in generous numbers and enable him to stay in a job, Mr Shapps will do almost anything – including throwing the travel careers, hopes and dreams of millions of people under the bus because he believes that they will be comfortably outnumbered by the tens of millions of voters will watch and applaud.”
He concludes: “Agreed, international travel allowed coronavirus to spread swiftly and lethally around the world. But from now on every job that is lost, every dream that is crushed, every family reunion that is wrecked: all are on you, Mr Shapps.”
Read Simon Calder’s damning indictment of the latest travel review here.
Helen Coffey4 June 2021 10:45
Ryanair claims decision to move Portugal to amber list has ‘no basis in public health or medical science’
Ryanair, Europe’s largest airline, has condemned the decision by the UK Government to move Portugal to the amber travel list, claiming it “has no basis in public health or medical science”.
The low-cost carrier called the decision “bizarre” in light of the fact that 75 per cent of UK adults have now received a Covid vaccine, and that Covid infection rates in Portugal are similar to those of the UK.
Ryanair also condemned transport minister Grant Shapps’s failure to add other destinations to the green list, such as Malta, which has now overtaken the UK with almost 80 per cent of its population having received a Covid vaccine, and Covid case rates just 12 per 100,000 people (less than 25 per cent of the rate in the UK).
The airline called for other Islands with low infection numbers, such as the Balearics and the Canaries, to be immediately added to the green list.
Ryanair’s CEO Michael O’Leary said: “Boris Johnson’s government is again mismanaging the Covid recovery. This stop-go-stop approach to short haul travel in Europe is inexplicable and unjustified when 75 per cent of the UK population has now received a Covid vaccine.
He added: “UK citizens who have already booked travel to Portugal deserve an explanation why vaccinated UK citizens are required to quarantine when returning from a country which has similarly low Covid case rates as the UK.
“This is sadly further evidence that the Johnson Government just makes it up as they go along, and this stop-go-stop approach to international travel is damaging for the UK and for millions of UK families.”
Helen Coffey4 June 2021 10:30
Wales has no plans to ban travellers from England’s Covid hotspots
Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford said there were no plans to ban people in English coronavirus hotspots from entering Wales because enforcing it would be too “difficult” and a “partial measure at best”.
Mr Drakeford told the PA news agency: “Even when our border was closed with England, thousands of people crossed the border every day for reasons that were allowed in the law.
”Secondly, when we were in a position where the whole of England was in a more difficult position than Wales, at least for policing purposes that was relatively straightforward.”
Mr Drakeford added that he had wanted the UK to wait longer before its original decision to put Portugal on the green list because coronavirus figures showed it was only “marginally” qualified for that status.
He said: “The figures showed that while Portugal was in a position to be put on the green list, it was only marginally so.
”I would have waited a bit longer to see whether that position was strengthening so that you can be confident that it would be on the green list, or whether because it was so close to the margin things could have moved against it being on the green list.
“Now things have deteriorated in Portugal and I know that will be a very significant challenge now for people who are already on holiday there to face quarantining when they return.”
Helen Coffey4 June 2021 10:11
Travel companies ‘mystified’ by government’s green list decisions
Dnata Travel Group, which owns Travel Republic, Travelbag, Netflights, Sunmaster and the trade-only brand, Gold Medal, has said it is “mystified” by the government’s decisions around it travel traffic light lists.
John Bevan, divisional senior vice president, said: “While we respect the fact that the government’s priority has to be public health, today’s announcement will mystify the travel industry. Thanks to the success of localised lockdowns and vaccination programmes, an increasing number of destinations meet or exceed the criteria we’re told must be met for a destination to open up.
“You begin to wonder what other agendas are in play, when decisions taken contradict the very criteria we and our customers were presented with just a few short weeks ago.
“Our industry, which is worth billions to the UK economy and employs thousands, cannot go on with this uncertainty and unpredictability indefinitely. Targeted support for what were well-run businesses has to be forthcoming. If the Government is determined to pull the rug out from under the industry like this, then it has a duty to help break the fall.”
Helen Coffey4 June 2021 09:59
Over 112,000 Brits on holiday in Portugal as it joins the amber list
Some 112,000 Britons are estimated to currently be on holiday in Portugal, according to the latest data.
As of 31 May (the most recent data available) 112,177 British travellers are staying in the Iberian nation
According to research from Huq Industries, a mobility research business, from 17 May, when Portugal officially became a green list country, until 31 May, a total of 221,064 Brits travelled out to the country. As of 31 May, the number of Brits who had travelled back from Portugal stood at 108,887, leaving 112,177 visitors still overseas as the country was downgraded from green to amber in the UK government’s latest review.
The changes will come into effect from 4am on 8 June; anyone arriving into the UK after that will have to quarantine for 10 days and take two PCR tests.
Conrad Poulson, chief executive officer at Huq Industries, said: “Assuming the largest capacity Boeing 737 or equivalent can carry around 230 people that equates to around 487 flights to get every one of the remaining 112,177 people home.
“When you also factor in the five-day window before Portugal goes on the amber list, this rough calculation gives a sense of the scale of the issue for holidaymakers and those charged with getting them home.”
Helen Coffey4 June 2021 09:53
Ministers defend decision to downgrade Portugal
Ministers have defended yesterday’s controversial move to downgrade Portugal to the amber list, sparking a frenzy among holidaymakers currently in the country.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick this morning defended the move, saying it “wasn’t a last-minute decision” to move Portugal off the green list.
“When we set up the system, we said that we would be reviewing the countries every three weeks, that’s what’s happened,” he told Times Radio.
Mr Jenrick said he understood “how frustrating this is both for people in Portugal and for millions of people here who would love to go on holiday”.
He told Sky News: “You should not be going on holiday to countries on either the amber or red list.
“We were also clear if you chose to go on holiday to countries that are on the green list those countries are being reviewed every three weeks, so there is always a risk with a fast-moving situation with new variants that countries might either go on to that list or indeed come off.”
Read the full story from travel editor Cathy Adams here.
Helen Coffey4 June 2021 09:40
Holidaymakers desperately scramble to make it home from Portugal
Holidaymakers who thought they could safely travel to Portugal have been given 108 hours to return to the UK or face self-isolation when they return.
Dayna Brackley is a consultant who lives in London, has two children at home aged 4 and 6 and is meant to be doing the school run on Wednesday: “It all feels like a last minute scramble – I’m meant to be flying home on Tuesday afternoon and taking my kids to school on Wednesday morning.
“If it changes to amber from Tuesday morning, I’ll have to try and get someone else to do the school run while I isolate for 10 days and do all my work via Zoom again, including some important meetings – I’d only just gotten used to doing them in person again. I was also supposed to be going to the theatre with my kids to see The Smartest Giant in Town at the Little Angel in Islington on Sunday, and they’ll be really disappointed.”
Read the full story from our travel correspondent, Simon Calder, here.
Helen Coffey4 June 2021 09:25