United Kingdom

MARK PALMER: Scraps of holiday comfort will go long way after outright incompetence from Government

We were always promised that the vaccine rollout was the key to our freedom. But it never happened. Quite the reverse, in fact.

Until last night’s announcement, foreign travel has been more restricted this summer – when 60 per cent of adults in the country have received both jabs – than it was 12 months ago when a national programme of inoculation was still some way off.

But, finally – 24 hours after travel workers marched on Westminster to vent their frustration – the Government has loosened the chains. 

Not nearly enough, but a few scraps of holiday comfort will go a long way after 18 months of stop/start, confusion and outright incompetence from a government that at times has appeared to turn its back on the travel sector.

The traffic light system is still in place but one of the big changes is that amber will no longer stand for ambiguity once the changes come into effect – hopefully on July 19, but more likely in August. 

People who work in the UK aviation and travel industry take part in a 'Travel Day of Action' protest near the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London, on Wednesday

Before yesterday’s news, government advice was that we should not travel to an amber-listed country unless we have a good reason to do so. That has been scrapped.

Even more crucially, fully vaccinated travellers will be allowed to visit amber countries – such as Greece and Spain – without needing to self-isolate on their return. But that’s also for the future.

The most cheering development is that four traditional holiday hotspots – Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Madeira – will be on the green list from Wednesday. Although there’s a caveat there, too. 

These and the other new green countries – except for Malta – are in fact on a ‘green watchlist’, which means that at any time their status could change with little warning.

This was the fate of Portugal, which turned green on May 17 but was downgraded little more than two weeks later, ruining the plans of thousands and prompting a scramble to get back before new rules came into force.

We will still need to take a test within 72 hours of returning to the UK from a green country, plus a PCR test on day two after our return. These tests remain expensive and the Government needs to honour its word to clamp down on companies fleecing travellers. 

Until last night’s announcement, foreign travel has been more restricted this summer – when 60 per cent of adults in the country have received both jabs – than it was 12 months ago (pictured: Caroline Nicolls receives an injection of the Moderna vaccine in Reading) 

Fully vaccinated travellers will be allowed to visit amber countries – such as Greece and Spain – without needing to self-isolate on their return (pictured: the Greek island of Santorini)

The bulk of new green countries are in the Caribbean, and not before time. Grenada, for example, has recorded only one death since the pandemic began.

Stand by for a surge of bookings to the likes of Malta and the Balearic islands – and let’s hope airlines and tour operators will not hike their prices to unreasonable levels. Meanwhile, there’s the issue of Italy, Germany and France. They didn’t want us to leave the EU – but now they don’t want us to visit EU countries.

The Prime Minister must press EU leaders to reward Britain for its vaccination programme. Our travel industry contributes £106 billion to the economy and supports 2.6 million jobs. The hope was that by 2025 it would be worth more than £257 billion – around 10 per cent of our GDP.

There must be no turning back now. The summer of 2021 must go down as a turning point. That means holidays not quite as usual – but holidays all the same.

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