Summer holiday plans for nearly six million people across the UK could be ruined if the government moves Spain and Greece onto the amber plus Covid list, according to an analysis.
Labour warned that an estimated 5,857,558 people face the prospect of last-minute quarantine if the two countries are put in the same restricted travel category as France.
Fully vaccinated holidaymakers visiting counties on the amber list are generally exempt from quarantining on return to the UK, but ministers removed the exemption for Britain’s cross-channel neighbour earlier this month – effectively creating a so-called amber plus tier.
The decision was taken because of concerns about the spread of the Beta variant of Covid, with fears it could bypass vaccines. There has been speculation that Greece and Spain could face the same measures as France.
While the government has not yet indicated that this will happen, a year and a half of abrupt U-turns by ministers when it comes to travel has left holidaymakers cautious.
Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said: “Not only have they failed to protect our borders, allowing Covid cases to rocket, they also refuse to be straight with the public and give them the information they need to book travel with confidence, with clear information on the direction of travel of infections in each country.
“Families who have booked holidays in good faith now risk losing out – a 10-day quarantine is simply not an option for many people who are already struggling financially thanks to the pandemic.”
The opposition drew up the estimate by looking at official data for past travel to the countries and adjusting for lower willingness to travel during the pandemic by using data from surveys.
Environment secretary George Eustice this week hinted that France could be moved back onto the regular amber list when the government review the rules next month.
“It was concern about the Beta variant and the fact that the vaccine might be slightly less effective against that,” he told LBC radio.
“But as those rates come down obviously the evidence will change and it can be reviewed and we will want to be putting countries like France back onto the amber list in the normal way.”
Responding to Labour’s estimate, a Department for Transport spokesperson said: “The travel list allocations have not changed for Spain or Greece.
“We are closely monitoring the data and will take swift action on travel list allocations and international travel requirements should the data show that countries’ risk to England has changed.”