The UK Government is facing backlash from the travel industry over plans to expand the ‘amber plus’ travel list and create a new ‘amber watchlist’.
The new travel traffic light category could put thousands of holidaymakers at risk of having to stay in hotel quarantine and has been criticised for adding more confusion to an already complicated system.
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What is the amber watch list?
If introduced, the amber watchlist will work in the same way as the current ‘green watchlist’.
Countries that are placed on the amber watchlist will be at risk of moving from amber status to red at short notice.
If a country is moved from amber to red, this would force travellers returning to the UK from that destination to quarantine in a designated hotel for 10 days, at a cost of £1,750 per person.
A green watchlist is already in place which alerts holidaymakers to destinations which could be moved to the amber list, meaning anyone who is not fully vaccinated against Covid-19 would need to quarantine for 10 days on their return to the UK.
Under current rules, all travellers entering the UK from green list destinations do not need to self-isolate.
How have MPs and the travel industry responded?
The introduction of the amber watchlist was due to be signed off last Thursday (29 July), but it has been delayed following backlash from MPs and travel industry leaders.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has reportedly told the Prime Minister that the UK’s entry and exit rules are “out of step with our international competitors” and are hurting the economy, and has called for travel restrictions to be eased.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is also said to be against the plans for the watchlist, according to the Telegraph, and would instead like to see travel opened up further, while Labour has accused the government of being “in chaos over their border policy”.
The travel industry has also hit out against the proposed system, with Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, saying it would further complicate travel rules.
In a tweet, he said: “There’s no need for an amber watchlist, which would complicate the traffic light system even more.
“Just create a simple go and no-go list, as Americans have, enabling the fully-jabbed to travel at will. It’s not rocket science.”
However, Matt Warman, minister for digital infrastructure, has said that the travel watchlist provides people with more information to enable them to make “informed decisions” before heading abroad.
Speaking on Sky News, he said: “The point of the watch list that you refer to is to try and give people a sense of the direction of travel that a country is going in, it’s to try and provide people with as much information as possible when they make those decisions about where they might want to go on holiday.
“Of course it is… great news to be opening up, that people who are coming back from amber list countries don’t need to be quarantining, that’s a good sign of the direction that this country is going in thanks to the vaccination programme, but we do have to bear in mind that other countries are in a range of other positions.
“People do have to make common sense judgments and that may involve taking into consideration the fact that a country’s rates may indeed be getting worse.”
When could the watchlist be introduced?
Ministers are due to meet on Thursday (5 August) to decide what travel rules will be in place for most of August.
Analysts have predicted that Spain could be the next country to be added to the amber plus list, while France could be moved back to amber status yet again.
No 10 sources said it was too early to speculate on what changes might be made and pointed to the decision to allow fully vaccinated travellers into the UK from the US and the European Union as an example of the PM’s desire to see restrictions ease.
The new rule, which came into effect at 4am on Monday (2 August), means double-jabbed US and EU travellers do not need to quarantine on arrival into England.
The Department for Transport has refused to comment on “speculation” when asked about whether an amber watchlist was being considered.
A spokesman for the Whitehall department said the traffic light system was “kept under regular review” and “based on the latest risk assessment from the Joint Biosecurity Centre”, which assesses the public health risk of international travel.
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