Shapps insists new green list offers ‘a little bit of relief’ for travel firms
By Neil Lancefield, PA Transport Correspondent
The limited easing of restrictions on foreign holidays provides “a little bit of relief for the travel industry”, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has insisted, amid claims it has not gone far enough.
Fourteen new countries and territories have been added to the Government’s green list of destinations from which travellers do not have to self-isolate on their return.
They include Spain’s Balearic islands, Malta, Madeira and a number of Caribbean destinations.
Mr Shapps told Sky News: “It does mean there is a little bit of relief for the travel industry and for people who wish to get away.
“It won’t be quite like it was in 2019 and the old days, but we are moving in a positive direction.”
However, all of the additions except Malta were also put on a watchlist, which means they are at risk of returning to the amber list.
A number of popular hotspots such as France, Greece, Italy and mainland Spain remain in the amber tier.
Travellers returning to the UK from those locations must self-isolate at home for 10 days, making holidays unviable for many people.
Mr Shapps held out the prospect that people visiting amber list countries who had received two doses of a coronavirus vaccine would not need to quarantine, with an announcement due next month.
Shai Weiss, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, said the development was a “constructive step”, but “fails to go far enough”.
He added: “The Government’s own evidence shows that the US is low-risk and should be added to the green list now.”
The Airport Operators Association chief executive Karen Dee said the Government’s “overly cautious” approach would continue to have “major financial impacts” on the sector.
“Any extension of the green list is welcome, however small, but we also have to be realistic: this is not yet the meaningful restart the aviation industry needs to be able to recover from the pandemic,” she said.
CBI chief UK policy director Matthew Fell said: “While welcome, these limited movements on green list countries won’t be enough to salvage the summer season for the international travel sector.
“International connectivity extends far beyond tourism and underpins our whole economy. The UK’s successful vaccine rollout means we should be in the vanguard of safely restarting international travel.”
However, Thomas Cook chief executive Alan French was more upbeat saying he expected a “bumper weekend” of bookings for the online travel company.
He said the announcement was “fantastic news for our customers who are desperate for a holiday and have been waiting with bated breath for this latest update”.
But there are fears of potential new EU-wide restrictions on travellers from the UK over concerns about the spread of the Delta variant just as cases on the continent are coming down.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been pressing EU leaders meeting in Brussels to impose stringent quarantine requirements on arrivals to the bloc from Britain.
Mr Shapps told BBC Breakfast: “I think it is understandable if you are in Germany – I heard what the chancellor said yesterday – and you have yet to reach the level of vaccination that we have seen here or in Malta, that you’re going to be more concerned.
“That may be just a question of waiting for their vaccination programme.”
Professor Adam Finn, from the University of Bristol and a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), told Sky News that the UK poses more of a risk to some other countries at the moment than the other way round.
He said: “I think these islands, where they’ve been added to the green list, have been added because there are very low, almost absent levels of virus there, so they pose very limited risk to the UK, particularly if people coming back are being tested on the way.
“So I think the risk actually is greater for those places – that people coming from this country at this point in time may take the virus with them and infect other people there, but of course that decision lies with them and these are countries that depend on tourism income for their livelihood.”