Most of Europe to stay ‘amber’ when traffic light travel begins, claims industry expert

Simon Calder
·4-min read
Sea of green? Albufeira on Portugal’s Algarve coast, a possible candidate for low-risk status  (Simon Calder)
Sea of green? Albufeira on Portugal’s Algarve coast, a possible candidate for low-risk status (Simon Calder)

A campaigner for the removal of widespread quarantine restrictions says he believes no European country will be on the government’s “red list” of high-risk nations once international leisure travel from England resumes on 17 May.

Paul Charles, chief executive of the travel consultancy The PC Agency, has predicted that all European nations will be rated either amber or green when the government’s traffic light travel system comes into play next month.

He said: “It will be difficult to add Europe to the red list and vaccine rollout across the continent is picking up speed.

“Certain countries, such as Italy and France, are already seeing infection rates decline. I’m confident of better times and many greens ahead.”

However, he predicts most major holiday nations around the Mediterranean will initially be amber.

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In Europe, only Gibraltar, Malta and Portugal are rated as green by Mr Charles. So too are Israel, Morocco and a number of long-haul destinations: Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, the Maldives, the Seychelles, Sri Lanka and the UAE.

Australia, New Zealand and other Asia-Pacific nations with extremely low case numbers are also likely to appear on the green list – but British visitors are not currently welcomed.

Three key intercontinental destinations – Canada, Mexico and South Africa – are rated as red.

At present holidays and family visits abroad are illegal. That is due to change in May, so long as coronavirus data does not deteriorate.

Once international travel resumes, every foreign country will be assigned a colour in a “traffic-light” scheme for the purposes of travelling to the UK.

All passengers must provide a negative Covid test result before departure to the UK. Vaccination status will count for nothing.

The post-arrival rules will depend on the perceived risk prevailing in the country they travel from.

Nations will be rated on their rates of coronavirus, the prevalence of “variants of concern” and the success of their vaccination programme.

Arrivals from “red” countries must pre-pay for 11 nights in hotel quarantine – at a cost starting at £1,750 – plus two post-arrival PCR tests.

“Amber” status requires 10 days’ self-isolation at home plus two PCR tests. In England, paying for a third post-arrival test on day five can trigger early release.

Travellers from “green” nations need not quarantine but must take a PCR test within two days of arrival. The cost is likely to be upwards of £60.

At present 39 nations are on the UK’s red list, while remaining countries (except Ireland) are effectively categorised as amber. Scotland has tougher rules on inbound travellers, regarding all areas abroad as red list.

Ministers in London say they cannot assign countries into categories until early May.

On Wednesday the chief executive of easyJet, Johan Lundgren, told The Independent he would “struggle to see” Europe not being in the green category.

Simon McNamara of the International Air Transport Association (Iata) said: “Quarantine is the killer”. He told the Transport Select Committee that five out of six passengers polled “would not travel if they were subject to quarantine on return”.

At the same committee session, the aviation minister, Robert Courts, said no allocation would be made until early May, “commensurate with the duty of ensuring that, as we make those decisions, we are doing it on the basis of relevant, accurate data at the time”.

Meanwhile a leading travel industry figure has derided the requirement for two Covid tests even for arrivals from green list countries.

Derek Jones, chief executive of Der Touristik UK – which includes Kuoni and Voyages Jules Verne – tweeted: “This traffic light analogy doesn’t work. Green on a traffic light just means go.

“It doesn’t mean head off across the junction but before you reach the other side pull over, drop 120 quid into a box and take your driving test again.”

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