Why the ‘amber watchlist’ could be a non-starter

The government is said to be considering an ‘amber watchlist’ for foreign travel - but the plans could be shot down before they’re even announced

Travellers arrive at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 as quarantine restrictions ease (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP)

Back in May, we questioned the wisdom of a traffic light system for foreign travel: "Unlike stopping at a junction, booking a trip abroad is not something that happens in milliseconds, it takes weeks of planning. And so it needs clear rules."

Surely the 'amber' category would just cause confusion, we pondered, resulting in last minute cancellations and hoards of tourists rushing home to avoid quarantine.

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We take no satisfaction in the fact that this panned out pretty much as expected.

But what's even more surprising is that, not satisfied with complicating matters further with the amber-plus list, now the government is reportedly considering a new category: the amber watchlist.

What is this bright idea? Like the 'green watchlist', it would just be another intermediary list of countries at risk of turning red.

On the one hand, you can see the logic: why not give travellers a transparent way of knowing the risk before they book?

On the other hand, it's yet more complexity, and the travel industry has warned it could put paid to this summer's holiday season once and for all.

To come back to the traffic light analogy: if a light is amber, many drivers will, rightly or wrongly, chance it. But if the light's changing from amber to red, most sensible motorists will wait until the lights change again.

At the time of writing, it looks like the amber watchlist could be a non-starter anyway.

Airline bosses have been joined in their outrage by Boris Johnson's colleagues in the Tory party, who are said to be deeply concerned that major destinations for Brits like Italy, Greece and Spain could be among the nations at risk.

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