Government defends travel watch list plan despite industry warning changes would spell ‘disaster’

‘There’s no confidence to book because people are worried about places changing at short notice,’ says travel expert

Tom Batchelor@_tombatchelor
Monday 02 August 2021 08:40
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Related video: Raab ‘increasingly confident’ more countries will be added to amber or green lists

A minister has defended the government's pandemic travel rules amid suggestions a new amber watchlist could be created for countries – possibly including Italy and Spain – which would signal they were close to going red.

Matt Warman, minister for digital infrastructure, denied claims the guidelines were complicated – and defended the idea of moving away from “three cut-and-dried categories” for travel.

“Saying to people if a country is on a watch list there is a risk that it could, for instance, move from green to amber or amber to red seems to me to be providing people with really important information when they’re making significant financial decisions,” he said.

Asked if a list including green, green watch, amber, amber plus, amber watch and amber red categories would confuse people, the minister said: “You’re going to be hearing more from the transport secretary later this week about the details of that.

“But what you’re describing is a spectrum of countries ranging from green to red. And I think providing people with some indication of the fact that it is not simply three cut-and-dried categories is giving people more information.”

It comes as industry experts warned the government that introducing a new travel traffic light category would be a “disaster”.

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, tweeted: “There's no need for an amber watchlist, which would complicate the traffic light system even more.

“Just create a simple go and no-go list, as Americans have, enabling the fully-jabbed to travel at will. It's not rocket science.”

Speaking on Good Morning Britain, Mr Charles added: “At the moment the system in the UK is choking off recovery, and it's not helping the sector because there's no confidence to book because people are worried about places changing at short notice anyway.”

”It would be a disaster to bring in an amber watchlist on top of the amber list, the green list, the red list.“

There is already a green watchlist to alert holidaymakers that certain destinations could be relegated to the amber list, where anyone not fully vaccinated has to self-isolate for 10 days on their return.

All travellers entering the UK from green list locations do not have to self-isolate, while there is also an amber-plus list, containing only France at present, which scraps the quarantine exemption for the double-jabbed.

Ministers are due to meet on Thursday to decide the travel rules that will be in place for most of August.

The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, is said to be against the idea of an amber watchlist and would instead like to see travel opened up further.

Analysts have predicted that Spain could be the next country to go on the amber-plus list, in what would be a blow to British tourists given the country is the UK's most popular tourist destination, while France could be promoted to amber once again.

As many as 17 countries could also be added to the green list, including Germany, Canada and Romania after more encouraging Covid infection and vaccination rates were recorded, Mr Charles said.

No 10 sources said it was too early to speculate on what changes might be made, and pointed to the decision to allow into Britain those fully vaccinated coming from the US and European Union as an example of the government’s willingness to see looser restrictions.

From Monday, travel rules are being eased for travellers from Europe and the United States, with fully vaccinated travellers able to avoid having to quarantine.

Additional reporting by PA

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