Boris Johnson today hinted that more countries could be added to the UK’s amber and red travel lists as he vowed to be ‘cautious’.
The PM warned that the government will have ‘no hesitation’ about imposing tougher restrictions ahead of a review of the allocations due tomorrow.
The comment – in response to a question about whether the green list will be expanded – will fuel pessimism about the prospects for a holiday options being extended soon.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps had raised hopes last month by urging people to ‘be a little patient’ about booking trips abroad, as the roll call of quarantine-free destinations might expand.
Travel industry experts have suggested that case levels in the Canary Islands, Balearic Islands, Malta, Morocco, Finland, Jamaica, Barbados, and Grenada are low enough to be added to the loosest category.
But there is also speculation that Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, Kuwait and Bahrain might be escalated to the highest level.
That means only British residents can come to the UK after having visited, and even then they must stay in a quarantine hotel for 10 days.
In other twists and turns in the coronavirus crisis today:
- The UK recorded another 12 deaths – suggesting the zero tally yesterday might have been a blip – as infections rose above 4,000 again;
- Office for National Statistics figures revealed Covid was behind less than one per cent of deaths in the week to May 21;
- Mr Johnson insisted he still sees ‘nothing in the data’ to stop June 21 ‘freedom day’ going ahead;
- Matt Hancock delivered an extraordinary self-congratulatory speech taking credit for the UK’s vaccine rollout as he mounted a fightback after the Dominic Cummings storm.
Boris Johnson warned that the government will have ‘no hesitation’ about imposing tougher restrictions ahead of a review of the allocations due tomorrow
There is speculation that Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, Kuwait and Bahrain might be added to the red list tomorrow
The full list of countries on the government’s green, amber and red travel lists
Travellers returning to Britain from an amber location must quarantine at home for the same length of time and take a pre-departure test and two post-arrival tests.
Portugal is currently the only major tourist destination on the ‘green list’ – which only require tests to be taken on return.
It is understood the Joint Biosecurity Centre is still ‘crunching the stats’ ahead of the update tomorrow.
Asked whether there may be more countries added to the green list soon, Mr Johnson said: ‘You’ve got to wait and see what the Joint Biosecurity Centre say and what the recommendations are about travel.
‘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.
‘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 vaccine rollout, to protect the people of this country.’
The countries on the ‘green list’ since May 17 are: Portugal including the Azores and Madeira; Australia; New Zealand; Singapore; Brunei; Iceland; the Faroe Islands; Gibraltar; the Falkland Islands; and Israel
One of the famous white sandy beaches in Costa Rica – which some fear is set to be added to the red list tomorrow
Travellers at Terminal 3 at Heathrow this week – which has been reserved for people coming in from red list countries
Meanwhile there have been warnings that the ‘struggling’ Covid testing system is putting foreign holidays at risk as labs are already pushed to the limit.
Those looking to enjoy a summer holiday abroad this year are advised to book a package trip with a test included to protect themselves from paying through the nose if pre-booked private test results get lost or are delayed, advises consumer watchdog Which?.
The current private testing system is reportedly on the brink of collapsing under the workload, with experts fearing ‘carnage’ when travel starts up again fully.
Delays at the labs could mean late test results for families, meaning they will be forced to fork out for another test at the airport on the day of their departure.
Millions of British families are already facing huge bills and risk being priced out of their foreign summer holidays or reunions with loved ones due to exorbitant private testing costs.
Tests are required to travel abroad under the ‘traffic light’ quarantine system – which sees countries categorised into red, amber and green lists based on travellers’ risk of importing cases.
Arrivals from green nations – such as Australia, New Zealand and Gibraltar – need to take a Covid test before flying into the UK and a second test on or before the second day after they land.
Those arriving from amber countries need to quarantine at home for ten days and take a test on or before day two and on or after day eight – as well as prior to flying.
The current private testing system is ‘struggling’ and will be ‘carnage’ when travel starts up again, consumer watchdog Which? said.
Covid e-gates at four major airports ‘will be ready later this month’
Covid e-gates to speed up lengthy border force queues post-lockdown will be ready this month.
As it stands, Border Force officers have to conduct manual checks of all arrivals’ passports and passenger locator forms causing long queues in UK terminals.
And, with the green list of countries deemed safe to travel to set to expand this month, lines could get worse.
But automated gates are hoped to be a faster solution, allowing people to move through the queue quicker.
An airport source told The Daily Telegraph: ‘We are down to be completed at Heathrow at the end of June or beginning of July.
‘We believe June 28 will be a more significant opening of foreign travel than June 7.’
Travel editor Rory Boland told The Times: ‘The best-case scenario is that you’ve booked a package holiday and the test is booked with the tour operator.
‘That way if you don’t get the result back they will allow you to move the departure. But that’s not a given and will be no consolation to people who have fixed dates. The private testing system is already struggling, it will be carnage when people start travelling again.’
Campaigners are calling for the cost of private tests to be capped by the Government.
As it stands, a day two testing service for green list arrivals can cost up to £399, while amber packages can cost upwards of £378.
Britons are keen to go abroad after more than a year with limited travel – even though the summer will bring a scorcher back home.
The country is set to enjoy its hottest day of the year so far for the third day in a row as temperatures soar to 84F (29C) – making the UK warmer than ten out of the 12 countries on the Government’s green list of destinations.
The very hot conditions over the past week have led to packed beaches, parks and beer gardens across the UK, with today being the seventh day in a row that the mercury will be above 70F (21C) somewhere.
And it means the UK is now warmer than most of the countries Britons can visit without having to quarantine upon their return – including Portugal (68F/20C in Lisbon), Gibraltar (77F/25C) and Israel (also 77F/25C, in Jerusalem).
Britain is also hotter than St Helena (70F/21C in Jamestown), Australia (63F/17C in Canberra) and New Zealand (57F/14C in Wellington), as well as Iceland (50F/10C), the Faroe Islands (50F/10C) and Falkland Islands (37F/3C).
Yesterday, Malta became the latest European country to open its doors to British holidaymakers as the EU raised the prospect of easier travel to the continent from next month.
The sun-drenched Mediterranean island – currently on the UK’s amber list – will allow in UK visitors who pass a PCR test before travelling as it seeks to rebuild its tourism industry. In future it plans to accept vaccine passports.
Last week, the boss of Heathrow Airport urged the government to reveal its green list.
John Holland-Kaye warned that keeping the list of safe destinations for July and August under wraps would lead to operators scaling back on scheduled flights which would lead to a huge rise in seat prices.
He pointed to popular destinations such as Spain and its Balearic islands where Covid infections are low, suggesting they were ‘coming into the green zone’ but may not be announced for weeks.
There are only 12 locations that have so far been added to the green list, but Portugal, Gibraltar and Iceland are seen as actual holiday destinations.