In the UK Government’s most recent update to the travel traffic light system’s three lists, Portugal has been moved from green to amber. This move comes amid growing concerns regarding new variants of the coronavirus. It has led to upset and the likelihood of further economic difficulties for the travel sector, and is not seen as a good sign moving forward.
Green-list countries are important for travellers because they are, in effect, the only real choice for holidays
Prior to the announcement, it was anticipated that more traditional holiday destinations, such as Tenerife and Ibiza, as well as Malta, Finland and parts of the Caribbean, would all be added to the green list. Green-list countries are important for travellers because they are, in effect, the only real choice for holidays – travellers are able to avoid quarantining upon their return from these countries if they have a negative Covid test. Many of these countries are ones that UK travellers aren’t currently allowed to visit.
In the 3rd June announcement for the 8th June, no more countries were added to the green list, while Portugal was downgraded to the amber list due to concerns about rising cases and potential variants of the virus there. People must quarantine for 10 days if they visit an amber-list country, although there is the possibility for early release if they have two negative Covid tests. People are discouraged from visiting amber countries for a holiday. Seven countries – Afghanistan, Bahrain, Costa Rica, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and Trinidad and Tobago – were all moved from amber to red, meaning travellers must quarantine for 10 days with mandatory testing on days two and eight.
Key figures in the travel sector reacted negatively to the list update, and there was turmoil at airports as British holidaymakers in Portugal tried to get home. EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said the government had “torn up its own rule book and ignored the science, throwing peoples'” plans into chaos, with virtually no notice or alternative options for travel from the UK”. He added: “This decision essentially cuts the UK off from the rest of the world.” John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow Airport, said: “Ministers spent last month hailing the restart of international travel, only to close it down three weeks later all but guaranteeing another lost summer for the travel sector.”
Meanwhile, Henry Smith MP, whose Crawley constituency includes Gatwick, said: “I think we should be going in the other direction and liberalising the amount of countries on the green travel list. This decision really puts a question mark over a significant number of travel and aviation sector jobs going forward, if they can’t manage to have something of a summer season, I think it’s going to lead to increased unemployment. As an island trading nation, I think it impacts our economy more broadly, beyond the immediate aviation and travel sectors, and will mean that there will be people in the industry, and beyond, having to come to the government for bailouts and benefits in the coming months.”
Much of the UK government’s strategy is now apparently dictated by concerns about the Delta variant, which was first detected in India and is now the dominant variant in the UK
Much of the UK government’s strategy is now apparently dictated by concerns about the Delta variant, which was first detected in India and is now the dominant variant in the UK. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that the decision to move Portugal to the amber list was motivated both by rising Covid positivity rates in the country and concerns that travellers may bring more variants with them. Mr Shapps said that downgrading Portugal to amber “gives us the best chance of unlocking domestically”.
The next travel list update is due on 24 June, but that’s not really where the focus lies after the recent delaying of lifting England’s Covid restrictions. Due to this, the likelihood of travel opening up is a small one. Talk of Spain and France making the green list, or the UK forming a travel corridor of sorts with the US, are largely dependent on what happens domestically.