Red-list Turkey ‘making great strides’ and should go amber, say data experts

Exclusive: ‘Little justification’ for hotel quarantine – but Grant Shapps’ department says risk remains high

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Wednesday 01 September 2021 13:46 BST
Red list Bodrum could go amber
Red list Bodrum could go amber (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Sixteen weeks after the UK government placed Turkey on the “red list,” requiring arrivals to go into hotel quarantine, two leading Covid data experts have predicted the nation will be moved to the “amber list” this month.

The government added Turkey to the highest risk category on 12 May “to prevent the importation of variants of concern and to protect the roll out of the Covid-19 vaccination programme at a critical time”.

Almost four months, on, the Department for Transport (DfT) insists: “The public health risk from travellers arriving in the UK from Turkey remains high due to ongoing detection of variants of concern in the country.”

The classification effectively wiped out the destination for the summer. In normal times, 2.5 million British visitors go to Turkey each year. Many are property owners. In addition, there are strong family connections.

But leading data experts predict that at the next “traffic light” review, expected on 15 or 16 September, Turkey will be moved to the medium-risk amber category.

Travellers who have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus by the NHS, or in the European Union or US, would be able to travel from Turkey without needing to quarantine on arrival in the UK.

Tim White, the analyst who tweets as @TWMCLtd, told The Independent: “Turkey has been borderline red/amber for the last two reviews in my assessment.

“The positive test rate still a little too high but the country seems to have made great strides in submitting data about genomic sequencing now.

“I suspect it will be removed from the red list in the next review, much to the relief of many separated families.”

Ben McCluskey, who tweets as @BenkersBen, went further, saying: “There is little justification for Turkey to remain on the ‘red’ list given there are amber-listed countries with a higher seven-day incidence rate, such as France and Greece.”

He added that Turkey has “significantly increased” its contribution to Gisaid – the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data, which compiles data on variants of concern.

Eleven months ago, before the traffic light system was devised, quarantine was imposed on arrivals from Turkey by Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, because of concerns about the quality of data from the nation’s health ministry.

Mr McCluskey said: “Although the country’s place on the ‘red’ list may have previously been justified, given the questions around credibility of Turkey’s data last summer and lack of genomic sequencing, it is no longer justified.”

A spokesperson for the DfT said: “Decisions on red, amber or green list assignment and associated border measures are taken by ministers, who take into account the Joint Biosecurity Centre’s public health risk assessments, alongside wider public health factors.”

Were the move to take place, arrivals would still need to provide a test before departure and take a PCR test after arrival.

Unvaccinated travellers – or those whose jabs are not recognised by the UK, such as those administered in Turkey – would need to self-isolate for 10 days and take a further PCR test.

At the last review, which took effect on 30 August, no countries were taken off the red list. But Montenegro and Thailand were added.

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