The government has scrapped plans for an “amber watchlist” category of countries under UK international travel rules.
Ministers had been considering the new category for countries at risk of being moved into the red group under the so-called traffic light system.
Government sources confirmed that there would be “no amber watchlist”, following backlash from some Tory MPs, ministers, and the travel industry.
Earlier on Monday, PM Boris Johnson had hinted that the government might do a U-turn on rumoured plans to introduce an “amber watchlist” for countries at risk of being demoted from the amber to the red list for international travel.
The amber watchlist would have applied to countries at risk of being moved into the red category – which requires hotel quarantine for 10 days at a cost of £1,750 for an adult.
Mr Johnson said that he wanted to get the travel industry “moving again” and to keep a simple, “user-friendly” system of rules. But he stressed that the government needs to continue to “stop variants coming in”.
The decision to scrap the category comes after new rules allowing fully-vaccinated passengers from the US and amber-list EU countries came into force at 4am on Monday, meaning they now do not have to self-isolate on arrival in the UK.
Meanwhile, a further 17 countries should be eligible to move from the amber list to the green list in the next update to the government’s traffic light list for international travel, according to research by travel consultancy the PC Agency.
The research has identified 12 countries that could go fully green thanks to Covid rates below 30 cases per 100,000 residents and fairly robust vaccination rollouts: Austria, Bosnia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
Bhutan, French Polynesia, North Macedonia, Norway and Saudi Arabia have also been identified as candidates for the green watchlist.
The next review is due to take place this week, either on Wednesday or Thursday.
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Welcome to the travel live blog
Welcome to The Independent’s rolling travel coverage for Friday 30 July. Plenty to talk about, as always...
IAG reports continued slump
IAG, the parent company of British Airways, flew just 22 per cent of 2019 passengers in the first six months of this year – with the majority of seats empty on flights that did take off.
In its half-year results the Anglo-Spanish firm, which also owns Iberia, Vueling and Aer Lingus of Ireland, blames “government restrictions and quarantine requirements” for the continued slump in aviation.
In the three months from April to June 2021, IAG made an operating loss of €967m (£826m), corresponding to over £9m per day.
Its half-year loss was €2,035 (£1,738m), with just 49.2 per cent of seats filled.
Read the full story here:
Holding company predicts recovery in 2023 at the earliest
‘First signs of recovery are visible’, says KLM
French-Dutch airline group Air France-KLM said Friday that the “first signs of recovery are visible” in bookings amid easing pandemic travel restrictions as it reported a second-quarter net loss of nearly 1.5 billion euros ($1.8 billion).
The group’s fleet of planes carried just over 7 million passengers in the year’s second quarter, a rise of 477 per cent compared to the same quarter last year, when strict lockdowns and travel restrictions slammed the brakes on the global aviation industry.
With many countries now easing those restrictions amid vaccination campaigns, travellers are taking to the skies once more.
“Reciprocity of borders reopening and the acceleration of the vaccination rollout worldwide, especially in the context of the rise of the delta variant, will play a key role in maintaining this momentum.” said group CEO Benjamin Smith.
Transport secretary says he knows rules are ‘painful’
France was hastily slung into a bespoke “amber plus” category on 16 July, two days after the last review of the green, amber and red lists for travel, mandating 10 days of quarantine for arrivals regardless of vaccination status. The decision was driven by a worry over rising cases of the Beta variant, first identified in South Africa.
Read the full story here:
Traffic light update expected next week
Grant Shapps says France has variant problem as France attacks quarantine ‘madness'
Transport secretary Grant Shapps has defended France’s status on the UK’s amber plus travel list – insisting that the Beta Covid variant is a problem in mainland France.
The government has been accused of sowing confusion after Mr Shapps’ cabinet colleague Dominic Raab said the move was down to the prevalence of the Beta variant “in particular” in the French island of La Reunion – 6,000 miles from Paris.
The French government said keeping quarantine rules for travellers coming from France was “scientifically unsound”, while Brittany Ferries said it “madness” to base the policy on the Indian Ocean island.
France has ‘much higher level’ of Beta variant that UK, says transport minister
Italy extends quarantine rules for Britons
The Independent’s Helen Coffey has all the details on new entry requirements for Italy here:
All UK arrivals must self-isolate for five days
Quarantine exemption ‘welcome step forward'
The Airport Operators Association has called the extension of quarantine exemption to include fully vaccinated travellers from the US and EU entering the Britain a “welcome step forward”.
Chief Executive Karen Dee said: “This is a significant and welcome step forward that will be a boost to airports, our inbound visitor economy and the many families who will be able to reunite after a long and difficult period.
“However, there remain considerable challenges for our airports and aviation sector and our road to recovery remains long. We urge the Government to work with industry to continue opening up travel by putting more countries on the green list, reduce the cost of testing and provide the much-needed financial support for the difficult months ahead.
“Our airports continue to be hit by the impacts of the pandemic and held back by an overly cautious approach to international travel. Without sector specific financial support our national recovery will be stalled and thousands of jobs put at risk.”
Saudi Arabia to open to vaccinated visitors
Saudi Arabia will reopen to fully vaccinated international tourists from Sunday, 1 August.
The kingdom closed abruptly to travellers in March 2020.
Visitors will need to provide evidence of completing a course of Astra Zeneca, Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines – in the form of “an approved paper vaccination certificate, certified by the official health authorities in the issuing country”.
The NHS Covid pass letter, available free in the UK, will suffice.
Tourists must also provide a negative PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before departure for Saudi Arabia.
France is ‘amber plus’ due to Reunion... but Reunion is not
As France remains on the bespoke “amber plus” list due to the Beta variant in La Reunion, it turns out the island itself is... on the amber list. Which means double-jabbed Britons and Europeans can return from there with no quarantine at all.
Simon Calder has the lowdown on this most mangled of traffic light decisions here:
The Man Who Pays His Way: The location blamed for requiring tighter restrictions for France is now a quarantine laundrette
When is the next green list announcement?
The next traffic light reshuffle is expected next Wednesday or Thursday, which is when the government will reshuffle the green, amber and red lists for travel and decide where Britons can travel quarantine-free.
Here is everything we know about when the announcement is, and what is currently on the low-risk green register.
When is the next green and amber list update announcement?