Hancock adds to confusion over traffic light travel rules

Confusion has continued over the government’s traffic light system for overseas travel as health secretary Matt Hancock advised against trips to amber list countries.

His comments came ahead of a ban on international being lifted today (Monday) with countries categorised by the government as green, amber or red.

Only 12 countries feature on the no quarantine green list, although Portugal is the only mainstream summer holiday destination.

However, on the eve of overseas travel curbs being relaxed, Hancock was reported as saying people should “certainly not” travel to amber or red list countries such as Spain, Greece, Italy and France.

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He told Times Radio on Sunday: “People should not travel to amber or red list countries unless it’s absolutely necessary, and certainly not for holiday purposes.”

Hancock added that the green list had been drawn up to provide for a “safe way” to travel.

“The red and amber list countries are places that you shouldn’t go to unless you have an absolutely compelling reason,” he said.

His comments follow a cautious tone taken by prime minister Boris Johnson on Friday against the backdrop of concerns over the spread of rhe Indian variant of Covid-19 in parts of the UK.

EasyJet and Tui have both said that they will operate holidays to countries classified as amber, provided Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) does not advise against “all but essential” travel.

The majority of countries around the world are in the amber category, meaning that arrivals from these places to the UK are required to quarantine at home for ten days as well as taking a Covid test before departure and two more on arrival.

Airlines UK chief executive Tim Alderslade said: “The regulations do not say it is illegal to travel to amber so the government should not be suggesting or intimating it is. That just leads to confusion.”

An easyJet holidays spokesperson said last week: “We want holidays to go ahead for as many of our customers as possible this summer, and we recognise that the discrepancy between countries on the amber list and the FCDO’s ‘all but essential travel’ warnings are confusing for holidaymakers and the industry alike.

Tui said: “We want to offer our customers flexibility and choice this summer, so where borders are open and FCDO advice allows travel, we will operate to those destinations.”

Balearic Islands tourism minister Iago Negueruela said: “We feel encouraged to see that international travel will be allowed to restart in the United Kingdom, after travel being off the cards for months.

“We hope we can welcome Brits as soon as possible and for this reason, we wanted to update you on our work behind-the-scenes in the Balearics Islands over the last few weeks.

“Firstly, we are proud to say that we managed to control the pandemic in the islands, and now we have one of the lowest Covid-19 rates in Europe.

“As we continue to ease restrictions and roll out the vaccine, we are looking to restart international tourism in the Balearic Islands, based on the highest standards of safety.

“As part of this, our government has approved the ‘Tourism Reactivation Plan’, with an investment of €11 million. The plan will facilitate the safe reopening of our islands to international tourists, encouraging tourist arrivals and extending the summer season.

“As part of the plan, we are launching the ‘Safety Pack’, an updated safety protocol to protect the tourism workers, and showcase the safety in the destination, with various guides aiming at reducing the spread of Covid-19 in the archipelago.

“Furthermore, we also identified the costs of the PCR tests as a major barrier to travel for many people so we have just approved a decree-law to make travel to the Balearic Islands more affordable limiting the costs of PCR tests for those who require one when returning to their home countries.

“The maximum price for a PCR will be €75, and for an antigen test, it will be €30.

“A huge effort is taking place behind the scenes to start once again receiving tourists. We look forward to opening our doors to British visitors very soon.”

More: Advantage creates ‘Traffic Light Toolkit’ for members

Scotland adopts traffic-light travel system and 12 green list destinations

Foreign Office advice and traffic light lists tipped to align

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