Malta and Balearic Islands ‘could be added to green travel list’
By Neil Lancefield and Ian Jones, PA
Malta and the Balearic Islands could be included in an update to the Government’s green list for foreign travel which is otherwise expected to be lean for holidaymakers hoping for a getaway, according to reports.
The Times said the Mediterranean islands are among a “handful” of places being considered for quarantine-free trips ahead of the update to the lists under the traffic light system on Thursday.
The weekly rate of coronavirus cases per 100,000 people on Malta is just 1.6, compared with 108.4 in the UK, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
Before the pandemic, British tourists made around half a million visits to Malta annually.
The Maltese authorities require travellers from the UK to have evidence of a negative PCR test taken up to 72 hours before their arrival.
Those that do not have this documentation must take a swab test on arrival or quarantine for 14 days.
The ECDC does not publish figures for the Balearic Islands – which include Ibiza, Menorca and Mallorca – but the weekly case rate for the whole of Spain is 48.3.
People returning to the UK from green list destinations are not required to self-isolate, but there are currently no viable major tourist destinations in that tier.
Malta and Spain are currently on the amber list, alongside other popular summer hotspots such as Portugal, Italy and Greece.
Media minister John Whittingdale told Sky News that the green list will be reviewed this week and “I hope that we can put more countries on to it”.
But he urged people to go on holiday in Britain.
“You can have a great holiday in Britain and I think a very large number of people will decide this year that that’s what they will do,” he said.
“Having said that, people like to get away to the sun and there are a number of countries on the green list, and hopefully it will be possible to increase that number.”
There was speculation that countries would be added ahead of a previous review of the green list earlier this month, but the only outcome was the removal of Portugal.
Meanwhile, the UK’s travel industry is holding a day of action to put pressure on the Government to reopen the sector and provide tailored financial support to businesses.
Industry body Abta estimates 195,000 travel jobs have been lost during the coronavirus pandemic or are at risk.
It accused ministers of failing to deliver a restart to travel by “undermining” the traffic light system.
The Government has urged people to avoid holidays to locations on the amber list.
Abta estimated that 800 people – including travel agents, pilots and cabin crew – will gather outside the Palace of Westminster on Wednesday.
Some 200 will meet at an event at Holyrood, Edinburgh, 100 will assemble in Belfast, and a virtual meeting will take place for campaigners in Wales.
Derek Jones, boss of luxury travel firm Kuoni, said the outbound travel sector has been “decimated by this pandemic and by the Government’s haphazard response to it”.
He added: “Today, we have joined together to call upon ministers to acknowledge that the restrictions they have placed on international travel are having a deep and devastating impact on travel businesses.
“We are united in one message today: we want to see the safe reopening of international travel alongside targeted financial support for businesses which have not been able to trade for well over a year.”
A Government spokeswoman said: “Our international travel policy is guided by one overwhelming priority: protecting public health.
“Decisions on traffic light allocations take into account a range of factors including genomic surveillance capability, transmission risk and variants of concern, with data behind decisions to move countries on the list published online.
“We keep all measures under review and continue to engage with industry and international partners to explore how we can open international travel safely. Both tailored and wider economic support is still available to the sector, including the furlough scheme.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Tuesday that the Government is “working on” plans to allow quarantine-free travel for fully vaccinated Britons returning from amber locations.
A “checkpoint” review of the rules for each tier is scheduled to take place on Monday.