No details of ‘green list’ countries before early May, says aviation minister

‘I find it incredible that we don’t know what the rules will be if you want to travel to Greece on 17 May’ – Transport Select Committee chair Huw Merriman

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Wednesday 14 April 2021 11:44 BST
Numbers game: Heathrow is receiving as few as 10 per cent of its pre-pandemic levels of passengers
Numbers game: Heathrow is receiving as few as 10 per cent of its pre-pandemic levels of passengers (Simon Calder )

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Travellers and the travel industry will not get any information on the countries on the “green list” until early May – just days before the planned resumption of international travel on 17 May.

The timescale was confirmed by Robert Courts, the aviation minister, when he addressed MPs on the Transport Select Committee.

At present holidays abroad are illegal, though that is expected to change from 17 May.

The Global Travel Taskforce report, published on Friday, said the government will assigned foreign countries into “traffic light” categories for the purposes of returning to the UK.

Arrivals from “red” and “amber” countries will be required to quarantine, while those on the “green” list must take a PCR test within two days of arrival.

Mr Courts said: “In the early part of May we’ll be able to give some more detail.

“We are giving as much notice as we can.”

The committee chair, Huw Merriman, asked why the government had revealed the rules on its “traffic light” system – but not which countries. 

“I just find it incredible that we don’t know, even on a provisional basis, what the rules will be if you want to travel to Greece on 17 May. You won’t find out until early May,” he said.

Mr Courts said: “We will be providing that information. It’s too early to do so at the moment.”

Mr Merriman, who is Conservative MP for Bexhill and Battle, said: ”This all seems a rather clever way of making sure people aren’t flying by 17 May because it’s too difficult to do so.”

The minister said: “We are trying to protect public health. I want to see people flying again.”

On booking holidays, he said: “We can say that people can start looking to book.”

Asked by Ben Bradshaw, Labour MP for Exeter, whether major European countries would be on the green list – as predicted by easyJet’s chief executive this morning – Mr Courts said: “I can’t commit. It wouldn’t be right for me to speculate.”

Mr Courts, who is Tory MP for Witney, declined to say whether individual islands or regions might be treated differently from entire countries.

Earlier, Brian Strutton, general secretary of the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa), had warned that the UK’s aviation industry faced an extremely difficult summer.

“I struggle to see how some regional airports are going to survive,” he said.

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