<p>Red alert: anyone returning from Turkey to the UK must go into hotel quarantine despite hopes it might go ‘amber'</p>

Red alert: anyone returning from Turkey to the UK must go into hotel quarantine despite hopes it might go ‘amber'

Travel industry despair at continued ‘traffic light’ caution

Hopes for Turkey, the Maldives and Pakistan to be moved from the high-risk ‘red list’ have been dashed

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Thursday 26 August 2021 18:24
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Travel industry bosses have reacted angrily to the latest round of “traffic light” changes confirmed by the UK transport secretary.

Grant Shapps tweeted: “We’ve updated our travel lists further cautiously easing international travel,” but gave no further details beyond a link to gov.uk.

While there is relief that key destinations, including some Caribbean islands and Morocco, have escaped the “red list,” airlines and holiday companies are dismayed that restrictions have not been eased more widely.

Canada, Denmark, Finland, Lithuania, Switzerland and Liechtenstein have been moved to the quarantine-free “green list” – along with Portugal’s Atlantic archipelago, the Azores. None is a mass-market travel destination.

The leading omission from changes is Turkey – which remains on the red list. The government in Ankara, as well as the travel industry in the UK, had lobbied intensively for the country to be taken off the high-risk register and moved to the “amber list” – meaning travellers fully vaccinated in the UK or EU need not self-isolate on return.

There were also hopes that the Maldives and Pakistan would be moved from the red list.

Within minutes, travel industry leaders attacked the limited easing of rules. Sean Doyle, chairman and chief executive of British Airways, said: “Despite our world-leading vaccination programme the UK’s economic recovery remains far behind our more pragmatic European neighbours, which are already reaping the rewards of a rapid recovery.

“We have a much more costly, prohibitive and restrictive testing regime than everyone else. We also need to urgently end the uncertainty caused by the constant threat of changes to countries’ traffic light status. Our ‘green’ list is much smaller than that of the US and EU, despite no new variants being transported into the UK.”

Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of the Advantage Travel Partnership, said: “Another three-week review ending in disappointment with Turkey being left off the list and kept on red.

“Whilst we welcome some countries added onto the green list there really is no rationale based on the public data that is available for Turkey to remain in red.

“The traffic light review system is destroying public confidence and making it impossible for the travel industry to trade its way through to recovery, let alone the British public to make plans to travel, do business or be reunited with loved ones.

“There would appear to be a wholehearted attempt by government to completely sabotage public confidence because there really is now no other logical rationale, as the data certainly doesn’t point to protecting public health given how broken the whole testing system is too.”

The CEO also deplored the manner in which the changes were announced.

“What an utterly appalling way to make an announcement. The stress and anxiety being caused is beyond repair,” she said.

Airlines UK, the industry body representing UK-registered carriers, said: “Too many families are having to look over their shoulders for rule changes, and pay through the nose for tests – with no sign from government that this will change.”

A Department for Transport statement read: “All classification changes have been decided by ministers, informed by the latest data and analysis by the Joint Biosecurity Centre and wider public health considerations, to help the public understand the risks to UK public health from incoming travel from different destinations.

“Continuing with our phased approach to restarting international travel while protecting public health, we are engaging with governments around the world, offering technical expertise and support to help them make any improvements needed for a change in traffic light rating.”

Thailand and Montenegro have been assigned to the high-risk “red list,” requiring hotel quarantine for arrivals to the UK. There are very few British tourists in Thailand, but several thousand UK holidaymakers are believed to be in Montenegro. The former Yugoslav republic has seen infection rates rising sharply, with an increase of 40 per cent plus in a week.

The changes take effect at 4am on Monday morning, 30 August.

Paul Charles, chief executive of The PC Agency, said: “Yet again, a lack of transparency undermines the decision making behind these changes.

“There are many other countries that should be changing colour according to the data. Sadly I don’t think these changes really create meaningful recovery for the travel sector.”

Many holidaymakers in the Caribbean will be relieved that they do not need to rush home to beat a red list deadline. Rising infection rates in Jamaica and St Lucia had led to fears they might be downgraded from amber list status.

Morocco has also escaped the red list, unlike many other African nations – including Egypt, Kenya and South Africa – which remain in the highest risk category.

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