Bulgaria has banned travellers from the UK just days after being added to the government’s green list in the latest traffic light reshuffle.
The UK joins Cyprus, Spain, Fiji and Kuwait, along with 35 other destinations, on the Balkan nation’s “red zone” list.
Travellers from red zone countries are not allowed into Bulgaria, barring for a handful of exemptions, such as medical professionals and seasonal workers.
The UK was previously on Bulgaria’s amber list, but goes red as of 19 July - the same day that Bulgaria officially joins the UK’s green list.
Elsewhere, there are tentative hopes that travel to the US could soon be possible again after Joe Biden said that an end date for the European travel ban could be revealed “within days”.
The President said that his Covid-19 team is actively assessing the situation throughout Europe and that his administration will announce when the ban on travel from Europe will be lifted in the days ahead.
“We brought in the head of our Covid team, because the chancellor brought that subject up,” Mr Biden said, referring to a conversation he’d had with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “It’s in the process of [seeing] how soon we can lift the ban.”
“It’s in process now. And I’ll be able to answer that question to you within the next several days, what is likely to happen. I’m waiting to hear from our folks, from our Covid team, as to when that should be done.”
The US’s borders have long been shut to most international travellers.
The Foreign Office advice states: “It is not possible for most British nationals to enter the USA if they have been in the UK, Ireland, Schengen zone, Iran, Brazil, China, South Africa or India within the previous 14 days.”
Follow below for the latest travel updates:
BA passengers in Balearics can switch to earlier flight for free
British Airways has said that any passengers booked to travel from Spain’s Balearic islands to the UK after 4am on Monday 19 July can switch to an earlier flight without a fee.
Two weeks after Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza joined the quarantine-free “green list,” the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, announced that the islands would return to the “amber list” – requiring 10 days of self-isolation for any arrivals aged 18 or over who have not been fully vaccinated by the NHS.
As The Independent has reported, air fares soared within minutes of the announcement as holidaymakers scrambled for earlier flights.
Exclusive: Ryanair Mallorca-Manchester prices soared from £12 to £107 in just two hours
A reminder of the green list reshuffle yesterday
The key takeaways from Wednesday’s green list announcement...
- It was a day earlier than planned
- Balearics drop to amber from 19 July
- Cuba, Indonesia, Myanmar and Sierra Leone on red list
- Holiday favourites Dubai and Turkey remain on red list
For more, read this:
Changes will come into effect from Monday, the same day fully vaccinated arrivals from amber countries can skip quarantine
‘The sector can’t survive on scraps’, says pilots’ union
The pilots’ union has warned that “chopping and changing the rules for the most popular destinations” will prevent the resumption of aviation at scale this summer.
It follows the government’s decision to reimpose self-isolation for many UK holidaymakers returning from Spain’s Balearic islands. The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, made the announcement just two weeks after Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza joined the quarantine-free “green list”.
Brian Strutton, acting general secretary of the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa), said: “Chopping and changing the rules for the most popular destinations continues to prevent aviation from fully taking off this summer and the sector can’t survive on scraps.
“This latest announcement also highlights the importance of clarity over the traffic light system criteria. Balpa is calling once again for the data to be published and for transparency on how the list is compiled so that the travel industry can plan and passengers can feel confident to book.”
Wales First Minister urges people to ‘holiday at home’
Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford urged people to take a holiday at home and not travel abroad this summer.
“Our advice to people in Wales hasn’t changed. This is the year to take your holiday at home,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“Visiting other countries, even on the amber list, will pose risks to you and to others.
“Risks of re-importing the virus into Wales, risks of new variants that are occurring in other parts of the world could make their way back to the UK.
“Unless you have a compelling reason to travel abroad, surely this year is the year to enjoy everything that Wales has to offer.
“That’s been our message to people in Wales throughout.”
Mr Drakeford added that the UK government’s changes to rules on international quarantine ran the risk of “re-importation” of coronavirus back into the country and that the previous regime was “more sensible and proportionate”.
“I do regret the fact that the Prime Minister has decided that people returning from amber list countries do not require to self-isolate,” the Welsh First Minister told BBC Breakfast.
“I think it runs the risk of re-importation of the virus into the United Kingdom, I think it runs the risk of new variants cropping up elsewhere in the world coming into the UK and into Wales.
“I think the previous regime was a more sensible and proportionate one.”
Reporting by agencies
Jet2 offers unvaccinated travellers to Balearics free refunds
Jet2 says any customers who have not been fully vaccinated and who are due to travel up to and including 11 August 2021 to any destination that is currently on the amber list can cancel their booking with a full refund, or amend their booking fee-free.
The Leeds-based holiday firm has cancelled all flights and holidays to Turkey up to and including 11 August.
“All affected customers will have their booking cancelled with a full refund,” Jet2 says. There had been hopes that Turkey could be moved from the red list to the amber list.
‘Groundhog day’ for travel, says industry boss
A leading travel industry figure has described the latest round of “traffic light” changes to quarantine rules as “the worst groundhog day ever”.
Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive at Advantage Travel Partnership said: “The industry is still last to hear the news from Government allowing no time to plan and properly support customers with changes to their holidays leading, in many cases to cancellations and refunds.
“Speculation throughout the day from non-official sources has been irresponsible and only added to the confusion in the lead up to the announcement.
“This ludicrous cycle must stop. The government must get a grip of the traffic light system which is surely unfit for purpose when it does not align with other countries, be transparent with its decision-making and ensure travel operators are the first to know of any updates so they can step in immediately to help minimise disruption for travellers.
“Moving to Green is seemingly meaningless now and offers no confidence to traveller or travel agent going forward. The inconsistency of the system means that travel agents cannot properly advise clients because they have very few options they can confidently sell for the summer and beyond.”
Ask Simon Calder anything - at 4pm today
The Independent’s travel correspondent will be hosting his weekly ‘Ask Me Anything’ later today, as he answers reader questions about anything and everything traffic-light related.
To ask a question, drop it in the comment box under this article here, and join back at 4pm as he’ll answer questions live.
Simon Calder’s ‘Ask me Anything’: the Independent’s Travel Correspondent will answer your questions live
Simon Calder takes your questions on everything green list related, as the Balearics are downgraded to amber
Croatia goes green but Foreign Office warns against travel
In further confusion for British travellers, the Foreign Office (FCDO) advice continues to be at odds with some countries’ classification under the Department for Transport’s (DfT) travel traffic light system.
For example, while Croatia moved from amber to green at the DfT’s latest reshuffle, with the change coming into effect from 19 July, the FCDO guidance “advises against all but essential travel to the whole of Croatia based on the current assessment of Covid-19 risks.”
It remains to be seen whether this blanket advisory will lift from Monday. In the meantime, holidaymakers are unable to book with confidence, as standard travel insurance policies are invalidated when customers choose to travel against FCDO advice.
Balearics say ‘health systems and hospitals are not under pressure’ after amber downgrade
The Minister of Tourism for the Balearic Islands has said that, while he “respects” the UK’s government’s decision to downgrade the destination to amber, the islands’ hospitals and healthcare systems are “not under pressure”.
In response to the latest travel review, Iago Negueruela said: “We must respect the decision of the UK government to move the Balearic Islands to the amber list. Our tourism sector has already welcomed many British tourists back to the islands over the last few weeks and the Balearic Islands remain open.
“Travel is different this summer and we would like to continue encouraging visitors to travel responsibly, follow the local rules and take all the necessary steps to have a safe holiday.
“We have very sophisticated infrastructure in the Balearic Islands and our health systems and hospitals are not under pressure. The rise in infections is predominantly amongst young people and for the vast majority, there are no harmful symptoms. Likewise, many measures and protocols are in place to ensure that our visitors can have a safe and enjoyable holiday.
“We are pleased that from Monday, fully vaccinated Britons, which represents almost 35 million people, will be able to travel to the islands without the need to quarantine on their return. We continue to welcome our British visitors.”
Can you travel to Ibiza this summer?
In a further blow for British holidaymakers, it was announced that Spain’s Balearic Islands would be downgraded to amber in the latest review to the UK’s travel traffic light system, which took place on 14 July.
The Mediterranean isles include tourism favourites Ibiza, Mallorca and Menorca.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps also confirmed that, from 19 July, double-vaccinated Brits returning to the UK from amber list countries would no longer have to self-isolate.
Read The Independent’s explainer for everything you need to know about travelling to Ibiza this summer:
The Balearic Islands downgraded to the government’s amber list from 19 July
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