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‘5 MILLION’ Britons have ALREADY booked holidays to ‘amber list’ destinations

The EU approves Covid vaccine passports for holidaymakers: Tourists will be allowed into bloc without a test two weeks after receiving their second dose

The European Union has approved the beginnings of its summer travel by giving the go ahead for a vaccine passport system that will allow tourists to visit without needing to test or quarantine, providing they have had their final dose of an EU-approved jab two weeks beforehand.  

Until a uniform EU digital passport has been set up, the legislation says that countries should be able to ‘accept certificates from non-EU countries based on national law.’ In the case of the UK, the NHS app is believed to provide the requisite level of proof. 

Holiday travel is permitted from low risk countries which have an infection rate of less than 100 cases per 100,000 people. 

The UK, with 44 cases per 100,000, and the US, with 35 per 100,000, fall into this category.

People from low risk countries who have not yet had a vaccine will be able to travel to the EU for holiday as long as they provide a negative test. 

The bloc will only accept those who have received an EU-approved vaccine, those being the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson jabs.

All three vaccines used in the UK – Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna – are covered, as are those used in the US – Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.  

However, the EU has said it may extend this to any vaccine approved by the World Health Organisation – which includes China’s Sinopharm jab.

The rules are specifically for holiday travel and do not have any impact on the bloc’s current guidelines on essential travel and for EU citizens.

The plan covers all EU countries except for Ireland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

Officials are also devising a ‘white list’ for unvaccinated travellers from low infection countries – provided they have a negative test or evidence of a previous Covid infection.

While the UK is expected to make the list by being below the maximum infections threshold of 75 cases per 100,000, Brussels has yet to confirm any country’s inclusion. 

One EU diplomat warned the UK could still be left off the list because of rising cases of the Indian variant, which European leaders are keen to keep off the continent.

Ambassadors are due to meet Thursday to discuss which countries should be placed on the ‘white list’, which could be published as soon as Friday. The list will be reviewed once a fortnight.

Brussels also says that member states will have an ’emergency brake’ to block travel from countries where ‘variants of concern’ are spreading – even if they fall below the 100 cases per 100,000 people threshold.  

Boris Johnson today warned against visiting ‘amber list’ countries on holiday amid growing confusion as the EU agreed to open its borders to fully vaccinated tourists and five million Britons booked European summer breaks with flights now down to £5. 

Brussels has approved a travel plan that its 27 member states can adopt a vaccine passport system that will allow holidaymakers with two jabs to visit without needing to test or quarantine.

EU officials are also drafting a ‘white list’ for unvaccinated travellers from low infection countries – provided they have a negative test or evidence of a previous Covid infection.

But with only Portugal on the UK’s ‘green list’, the PM has said Britons should not be heading to Europe, even if the EU would allow it, warning anyone flouting 10-day quarantine or testing that they will be punished heavily. 

Hours earlier one of his ministers said rules against ‘amber’ holidays were merely guidance and the Government was putting ‘trust’ in the public to make the right decision. 

However, hundreds of Britons today flocked to airports for flights to amber list destinations, with several saying that they were unconcerned about breaking the rules because they had been vaccinated. 

Mr Johnson told PMQs: ‘You should not be going to an amber list country on holiday. If you travel to an amber list country for any emergency, any extreme reason that you have to, when you come back, you not only have to pay for all the tests but you have to self-isolate for 10 days – we will invigilate, we are invigilating it, and people who fail to obey the quarantine can face fines of up to £10,000′.

There is for example a direct flight to Dubai from London Heathrow today, despite the country being on the red list. 

Asked why the flight had been allowed, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said: ‘It is for airlines to decide which flights they run. The position from the Government obviously is set out clearly as regards both red, amber and green countries.’ 

It came as Ryanair sought to cash in on the boom, offering £5 flights to ‘amber list’ destinations such as Barcelona, Dublin, Corfu, Berlin and dozens more cities and resorts across Europe through June, when the EU is expected to open up to tourists.

Easyjet are now offering flights to most destinations for between £25 and £30 next month, and has promised customers they can change their booking until just 24 hours before departure in case an amber destination turns green.

MailOnline can reveal that Tui, the UK’s biggest holiday company, has seen a surge in sales for ‘amber’ destinations in July and August.  Most customers are booking breaks to Malaga in Spain, Ibiza and the Canaries or on Greek islands such as Rhodes, Crete and Kos.

Critics have pointed out that the UK’s traffic light system is also adding to the confusion, because an amber light can mean stop or go, with people left ‘baffled’ by the PM’s decision to legalise holidays from May 17 only to urge them to stay at home.

And Skills Minister Gillian Keegan has further fuelled travel chaos by stressing holidays to ‘amber list’ countries are not illegal and warnings from Mr Johnson are only ‘guidance’, insisting the government was trusting the public to be ‘sensible’. 

In a farrago of indecision, last night health minister Lord Bethell claimed travel anywhere abroad was ‘dangerous’ and foreign trips were ‘not for this year’, hours after Environment Secretary George Eustice suggested trips to ‘amber’ countries were acceptable if people wanted to see friends and family.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock was asked to apologise to holidaymakers over the conflicting messages as he hosted a Downing Street press conference this evening.   

But he declined to do so and insisted the Government had been ‘absolutely straight forward’ on what the rules are. 

Virginia Messina, Senior Vice President of the World Travel & Tourism Council, told MailOnline: ‘Disagreements over whether or not you can travel to an ‘amber country’ are baffling consumers and leaving the travel and tourism sector in disarray’. 

The chairman of the Commons Transport Committee has said the Government guidance on foreign travel is ‘completely unclear’.

Conservative MP Huw Merriman told BBC Radio 4’s The World At One: ‘I thought if you were coming from a country that was on the amber list then there would be tests, passenger locator forms and quarantine at home. But now we are being told that you shouldn’t be going there at all.

‘It seems very bizarre that just a week or so ago the Government announced that they were going to lift the stay in the UK guidance, they set out which countries apply to which traffic lights so individuals would know what they had to go through and then make their decision and yet now people are told they shouldn’t be travelling.

‘I think that that is just wrong, not least because many, many people have made their bookings based on what they thought the restrictions should be and are now being told they shouldn’t go at all.’ 

While the EU gave the green light to travel for fully-vaccinated tourists, Brussels is keeping its eye on the situation in the UK, especially with the growth of the  

One diplomat told the Telegraph: ‘The decision on Britain is now in doubt which was not the case until recently when the UK numbers were good. Now we see the Indian variant spreading and we hear the warning messages from Downing Street and that has given member states pause for thought over whether now is the right time to lift the ban’.

As the Government was accused of dithering over holidays, it also emerged today:   

  • Vaccines work well against the Indian variant and the strain may be less infectious than first feared, according to Boris Johnson and Professor Lockdown, Neil Ferguson;
  • Heathrow’s closed T3 and T4 and Gatwick’s shutdown South Terminal has forced ‘red list’ passengers and arrivals from safer nations to mix in ‘super-spreader’ bottlenecks at the borders; 
  • More than 100 direct flights from India have landed in the UK since the covid-ravaged Asian country was placed on the Government’s banned list of countries last month. This means that up to 8,000 travellers have flown in from the subcontinent despite concern over an Indian covid variant that threatens to undermine the easing of the national lockdown;
  • Dirt cheap family holidays abroad on sale for just a few hundred pounds could end up costing travellers thousands because of huge extra fees for testing and quarantine;
  • Border Force staff have said airlines should send employees to help reduce immigration queues after travellers faced three-hour waits to enter the UK – with red-list passengers unsegregated from others in the line at Heathrow.

Boris Johnson told PMQs today that Britons ‘should not be going to an amber list country on holiday’, after ministers said they thought it was ok to

A couple head off on holiday from Heathrow Terminal 5 today amid confusion over travel to amber list nations

A couple head off on holiday from Heathrow Terminal 5 today amid confusion over travel to amber list nations

Millions are taking a punt and have booked holidays to Amber List nations, especially in Europe, despite warnings not to fly out

Millions are taking a punt and have booked holidays to Amber List nations, especially in Europe, despite warnings not to fly out

Ryanair today sought to cash in on the boom, offering £5 flights to 'amber list' destinations such as Barcelona, Dublin, Corfu, Berlin and dozens more cities and resorts across Europe through June, when the EU is expected to open up.

Ryanair today sought to cash in on the boom, offering £5 flights to 'amber list' destinations such as Barcelona, Dublin, Corfu, Berlin and dozens more cities and resorts across Europe through June, when the EU is expected to open up.

Ryanair today sought to cash in on the boom, offering £5 flights to ‘amber list’ destinations such as Barcelona, Dublin, Corfu, Berlin and dozens more cities and resorts across Europe through June, when the EU is expected to open up.

A busy Heathrow terminal 2 arrivals, where the Indian passengers are escorted to awaiting coaches so the can be taken to quarantine hotels

A busy Heathrow terminal 2 arrivals, where the Indian passengers are escorted to awaiting coaches so the can be taken to quarantine hotels

‘Red list’ passengers are forced to sit with arrivals from safer nations before hitting ‘super-spreader’ bottleneck caused by closed terminals at Gatwick and Heathrow 

Passengers flying into Heathrow from red list countries are being forced to sit with arrivals from safer nations amid mounting concerns that UK airports are turning into ‘super spreaders’.

Travellers are being crammed into queues with no social distancing from other passengers upon arrival, and have called the situation so ‘crazy’ and ‘mad’ that Covid documents are not being checked properly.

Holidaymakers leaving Heathrow have admitted they are flying to amber list destinations in defiance of Boris Johnson’s muddled Cabinet as the Government sows confusion over global travel advice. While some ministers have cautioned against any travel at all, others have said flying overseas is just guidance, not law.

MailOnline understands green list and red list passengers from India mixed together at Heathrow Terminal 2 today

MailOnline understands green list and red list passengers from India mixed together at Heathrow Terminal 2 today

Sierra Leone national Alusine Jalloh, 40, flew in to Heathrow Terminal 2 this morning from Sierra Leone, which is on the amber list, via Paris. He told MailOnline today: ‘It was crazy.

‘A lot of people were stressing because they didn’t have the passenger locator form when we arrived in Paris. Some of them didn’t even have £170 to spend, so they had to go back [to Sierra Leone] – it was chaos.

‘There were long queues and everyone was scrambling to fill out their forms and pay the money. From what I could see passengers from amber list countries and red list countries are being treated the same. I transferred in Paris so I could definitely have been on the plane with people from green list countries.’

Heathrow mothballed Terminals 3 and 4 last year in a bid to save money due to the economic hit inflicted during the pandemic, meaning all arrivals are currently piling into the same lines at 2 and 5.

Border sources have said they are ‘struggling’ to cope with the influx of passengers and managing the queues in a Covid-secure way – and warn that the crisis will only get worse as the number of flights increases.

A blame game has now ensued, in which Heathrow has blamed Border Force for the chaos while Downing Street and the Home Office said airports are responsible for managing queues in a Covid-secure way.

The Government is also coming under pressure from Labour to toughen up the UK border after it emerged that more than 100 direct flights from India have landed in Britain since the Covid-ravaged Asian nation was placed on the banned list of travel destinations three and a half weeks ago.

Downing Street was accused of sowing even further confusion today after education minister Gillian Keegan told travellers not to fly to amber list Spain – but admitted that flying to Europe was not illegal.

The contradictory messages left beleaguered travel chiefs begging for clarity, with hundreds of flights to amber countries having already left the UK and demand for foreign breaks shooting through the roof. 

Defiant travellers say they are not worried about travelling to amber list countries because they have had the jab

Passengers departing Heathrow Terminal 2 for amber-list nations today said they felt comfortable because they had been vaccinated. 

Michael Matullo, 25, a trainee Lawyer who lives near Tower Bridge, said: ‘I’m travelling to Italy to see my family because I haven’t seen them since the start of the pandemic, over a year ago.

‘I’m a little bit concerned, but luckily I’ve had my first vaccine dose and both my parents are vaccinated.

‘I understand the government’s situation, but it’s quite frustrating because Italy’s on the amber list and I’ll have to quarantine, even though I’ve had the vaccine.

‘I think if you haven’t seen your family for a long time during these tough times, you should be able to travel for mental reasons.

‘But I understand their position, but it’s not an easy situation for people who want to go back to their country.’

Yazeed Ra, 27, who is studying cancer immunology at University of the West of Scotland said: ‘I’m travelling to Jordan to visit my family for Eid, it’s like Christmas in the Muslim world.

‘I had one week between my last exams and starting my new graduation project, so I decided to go home.

‘Jordan is on the amber list, because it has a lot of cases, but I’m not worried about the quarantine, just having to pay for the tests.

‘I’m vaccinated as I work with the NHS part-time so I’m not too worried, but if I didn’t have that, it would be risky and I probably wouldn’t go.

‘Travelling in countries where there are a lot of cases is risky at this critical time.

‘But some countries on the amber list don’t have that many – it’s different from country to country.

‘Jordan has a lot of cases, but because I’m vaccinated and there’s loads of testing I’m not concerned – even the people that I live with are ok with it.’

Richard Adams, 45, an IT and communication from Bromley who is travelling to Italy said: ‘I’m travelling to Genoa for work and should be back in about two weeks.

‘But because I work in IT on ships, I am exempt from quarantine when I get back so long as I fly out again within 72 hours.

‘Although the rules keep changing, but I guess there’s some reasoning behind them.

‘I’m not really concerned about going to an amber country because I’m going to be working at the end of the day.

‘I’ll be staying in an apartment on my own and will be eating outside.

‘I think for work it’s ok to travel, because putting food on the table is not the same as going to a beach.’

Passengers arriving in the UK from green list countries say they do not know if they have come into contact with others travelling from amber or red list covid hotspots.

Shahar Cohen, 40, a web developer who lives in Bethnal Green in East London said: ‘I came from Tel Aviv where it’s a war zone – I was hiding from rockets just the other day. The siren goes off and you have 90 seconds to find shelter.

‘It was super easy getting into the UK, there was a nice gentleman who was very efficient and quick, even though there was quite a long queue.

‘There is a possibility that people who were elsewhere travelled on the same flight as me.

‘Some people were not wearing masks in the passport queue and other passengers asked them to put it on.

‘There were only two queues at passport control, one for UK and EU citizens and then one for others.

‘But I didn’t see any specific queues for amber or red list countries, but maybe there were none on my plane.’

Brian Forbes, 46, from the North East of Scotland said: ‘I’m travelling to Taiwan for a couple of months for work – I work in oil and gas.

‘I was there last year and we had tens of thousands of deaths and they had nine deaths at the time.

‘Our government has failed to control the virus to such an extent that I don’t even care anymore. Here it’s complete chaos – look at the track and trace app for example.

‘The green, amber and red is not strict enough, and it’s never been strict enough. Taiwan had an advantage of being an island, oh wait, we’re also an island. It’s entirely down to the individual here if you want to follow the guidelines.’  

Millions of Britons have already taken advantage of cheaper prices and booked to travel abroad to ‘amber list’ destinations this summer, with the majority planning to head to Spain, France, Greece and Italy, according to The Independent, despite facing ten days of quarantine and multiple tests.

Passengers departing Heathrow Terminal 2 for amber-list nations today said they felt comfortable doing so. 

Michael Matullo, 25, a trainee lawyer who lives near Tower Bridge, said: ‘I’m travelling to Italy to see my family because I haven’t seen them since the start of the pandemic, over a year ago.

‘I’m a little bit concerned, but luckily I’ve had my first vaccine dose and both my parents are vaccinated.

‘I understand the government’s situation, but it’s quite frustrating because Italy’s on the amber list and I’ll have to quarantine, even though I’ve had the vaccine.’ 

Yazeed Ra, 27, who is studying cancer immunology at University of the West of Scotland said: ‘I’m travelling to Jordan to visit my family for Eid, it’s like Christmas in the Muslim world.

‘I had one week between my last exams and starting my new graduation project, so I decided to go home.

‘Jordan is on the amber list, because it has a lot of cases, but I’m not worried about the quarantine, just having to pay for the tests.

‘I’m vaccinated as I work with the NHS part-time so I’m not too worried, but if I didn’t have that, it would be risky and I probably wouldn’t go.’

Richard Adams, 45, an IT and communication from Bromley who is travelling to Italy said: ‘I’m travelling to Genoa for work and should be back in about two weeks.

‘But because I work in IT on ships, I am exempt from quarantine when I get back so long as I fly out again within 72 hours.

‘Although the rules keep changing, but I guess there’s some reasoning behind them. I’m not really concerned about going to an amber country because I’m going to be working at the end of the day.’

Meanwhile, passengers arriving in the UK from green list countries said they did not know if they have come into contact with others travelling from amber or red list covid hotspots.

It came as travellers flying into Heathrow from amber and red list countries complained they had been forced to mix on the plane and were not being separated. 

Shahar Cohen, 40, a web developer who lives in Bethnal Green in East London said: ‘I came from Tel Aviv where it’s a war zone – I was hiding from rockets just the other day. The siren goes off and you have 90 seconds to find shelter.

‘It was super easy getting into the UK, there was a nice gentleman who was very efficient and quick, even though there was quite a long queue.

‘There is a possibility that people who were elsewhere travelled on the same flight as me.

‘Some people were not wearing masks in the passport queue and other passengers asked them to put it on.

‘There were only two queues at passport control, one for UK and EU citizens and then one for others.

‘But I didn’t see any specific queues for amber or red list countries, but maybe there were none on my plane.’

Alusine Jalloh, 40, who lives in London, flew in to Heathrow Terminal 2 this morning from Sierra Leone, which is on the amber list, via Paris.

He said: ‘It was crazy. ‘A lot of people were stressing because they didn’t have the passenger locator form when we arrived in Paris. ‘Some of them didn’t even have £170 to spend, so they had to go back [to Sierra Leone] – it was chaos.’

He added: ‘There were long queues [when we got off the plane at Heathrow] and everyone was scrambling to fill out their forms and pay the money. ‘From what I could see passengers from amber list countries and red list countries are being treated the same. ‘I transferred in Paris so I could definitely have been on the plane with people from green list countries.’ 

Kev Carr, 41, an offshore manager from Aberdeen, said: ‘I’m coming from Angola, which is on the red list, but because I’m a seafarer I can self-isolate at home. 

‘When you come in from a red list country you’re split into a red list queue, but you’re sat with everyone on the plane and walk out together. 

‘I changed planes in Paris, so folk who are coming from a green or amber country on that flight are in the same boat as me, because they were sat next to me.  For me, travelling for work reasons is not a problem, but I wouldn’t be going on holiday anytime soon, put it that way.’ 

Tim Schwartz, 51, a mechanical engineer who flew in from Atalanta in the United States – which is on the amber list, said: ‘I don’t really know if they separate us from red list countries, I didn’t see anything like that. 

‘I’ve been fully vaccinated for a couple of months now, so it’s not really a concern for me. 

‘But if you’re mixing with people from countries with high infection rates, that could be problematic for people who haven’t been vaccinated. 

‘The queues coming through were not so bad, it took me around 20 minutes and my company had sorted out all the paper work.’ 

With the EU set to open its borders to Brits, travel firms say that Boris Johnson will have to be clear on why he is insisting that people don’t go anywhere other than ‘green list’ Portugal in Europe.

Irene Hays, the boss of Hays Travel, said: ‘The British government will need to respond because the British people will know that, from Europe’s perspective, they’re allowed to travel there’,  adding inquiries about holidays in ‘amber list’ nations were up 177 per cent this week.   

The row over ‘amber’ holidays was at the centre of PMQs skirmishes between Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer this afternoon.

Sir Keir said: ‘I think everybody would agree that having moved 170 countries to the amber list absolute clarity is needed about the circumstance in which people can travel to an amber country.

‘Yesterday morning the Environment Secretary said people can fly to amber list countries if they wanted to visit family or friends.

‘By the afternoon a government health minister said nobody should travel outside Britain this year and travelling is dangerous.

‘The Prime Minister said that travel to amber countries should only be where it is essential. By the evening the Welsh Secretary suggested some people might think a holiday is essential.

‘The Government has lost control of the messaging so can the Prime Minister answer a really simple question that goes to the heart of this? If he doesn’t want people to travel to amber list countries, if that is his position, he doesn’t want them to travel to amber list countries, why has he made it easier for them to do so?’

Mr Johnson replied: ‘I think after more than a year of this I think the right honourable gentleman would understand that what the public would like to see is some effort to back up what the Government is saying, to deliver clarity of message.

‘On his point of legal bans, as he knows we are trying to move away from endlessly legislating for everything and to rely on guidance and asking people to do the right thing.

‘And it is very, very clear. You should not be going to an amber list country except for some extreme circumstance such as the serious illness of a family member.

‘You should not be going to an amber list country on holiday… and if you do go to an amber list country then as I say we will enforce the 10 day quarantine period and if you break the rules you face very substantial fines.’

The traffic light policy for foreign holidays descended into farce last night with ministers accused of sowing ‘mass confusion’. On a chaotic day, George Eustice first suggested trips to ‘amber’ countries to see friends and family were acceptable. Yet hours later Boris Johnson over-ruled his Environment Secretary by insisting such travel was off limits.

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart further heightened the confusion last night by saying ‘some people might think a holiday is essential’ and they should use their ‘common sense’. 

That was followed by health minister Lord Bethell claiming holidays anywhere abroad were ‘dangerous’ with foreign trips ‘not for this year’.

The peer even failed to rebuff the idea that returning holidaymakers should be electronically tagged in quarantine.  

The contradictory messages left beleaguered travel chiefs begging for clarity. Hundreds of flights to amber countries have already left the UK and demand for foreign breaks has gone through the roof. Conservative MPs demanded an end to the shambles.

Lee and Louise Chambers, from Lancashire, have booked for Fuerteventura and Norfolk at the same time this summer.

The couple, with two children, believe flexible booking available, means they won’t be hit financially when they cancel one of them.

Mr Chambers said: ‘You start planning, you start preparing, and if that’s suddenly taken away it can actually impact our mental well-being,’ explains Lee. That’s why they are keeping the Norfolk booking and will decide nearer the time’.

How flip-flopping ministers have contradicted each other on ‘amber list’ travel

 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Monday:

 ‘If it isn’t on the green list, then unless you have an exceptional reason you shouldn’t be travelling there.’

Environment Secretary George Eustice on Tuesday morning: 

‘We don’t want to stop travel altogether and the reason… that we have the amber list is there will be reasons why people feel they need to travel either to visit family or indeed to visit friends.’ 

 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday lunchtime:

 ‘I think it’s very important for people to grasp what an amber list country is: it is not somewhere where you should be going on holiday, let me be very clear about that.’ 

Health Minister Lord Bethell on Tuesday afternoon. 

 ‘Travelling is dangerous. That is not news to us or to the people who get on those planes in the first place. We do ask people, particularly as we go into the summer, travelling is not for this year, please stay in this country.’

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart on Tuesday evening: 

 ‘Some people might think a holiday is essential. 

‘I can think of a quite a lot of people who do think that, but it’s about common sense we’re good at common sense.’ 

Skills Minister Gillian Keegan on Wednesday morning: 

‘What we are saying is the amber list is not to go on holiday, not for pleasure travel at the moment. It’s not in legislation, we haven’t legislated to ban people from going on holiday abroad. This is guidance.’ 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, Wednesday morning:

 ‘People really shouldn’t be travelling to those places right now.’ 

[Referring to amber list countries] 

London Director of Public Health England, Professor Kevin Fenton on Wednesday: 

‘Don’t travel unnecessarily if you don’t need to.’ 

Experts have said that late cancellations will hit UK businesses.  

Avvio, which provides the booking software for 500 UK hotels, fear a surge of cancellations later in the year because the rate is currently at 4% – when it is usually at 30%.

Chief commercial officer Michael De Jongh said:  ‘There’s a growing trend to book rooms at multiple hotels, with a view to cancelling all but one at the last minute. This causes so many problems for hotels, in the same way as multiple restaurant bookings did during Eat Out To Help Out.

‘If someone does have to cancel, I’d urge them to always give the hotel as much notice as possible or better still modify the booking to an alternative date’.

Air passengers arriving at London Heathrow Airport faced queues of up to three hours today as calls mounted to ensure arrivals from ‘red list’ countries such as India were separated from those coming in from other nations.

All arrivals are currently going into the same queues at the border, which has raised concerns over social distancing and people from amber or green list countries coming into contact with those from red list nations

Downing Street has insisted that it is down to airports to make sure border queues happen in a Covid-secure way, and that the Government is ‘doing everything possible to make this process as efficient as possible’.

Asked whether amber and red arrivals should be separated at airports, a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said today that ‘all arrivals should be managed in a way that is as Covid-secure as possible.’

Border officials have warned tourists face massive queues at airports as international travel expands, after the new the ‘traffic light’ system for foreign trips continued to lead to long queues for the second day in a row at Heathrow. 

Yvette Cooper, chairwoman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said today that queues and delays at airports after the reopening of international travel could be a ‘super spreading risk’ if safety measures are not put in place. 

Speaking to the World At One programme on BBC Radio 4 this afternoon, the Labour MP said Border Force had ‘a long time to prepare’ for the reopening of foreign travel.

She said: ‘It’s irresponsible, frankly, not to sort this out because if you have people waiting for long periods of time in a not brilliantly ventilated arrivals hall, often standing very close to each other, well that’s a super spreading risk if you continue to do that and don’t have the proper systems in place, especially if you have people arriving from red list countries alongside people arriving from green list countries.

‘So they’ve got to make sure they have proper systems in place, that they have enough Border Force staff in place, that they have enough electronic systems in place, and if they don’t have those things in place at a time when we’re all desperately trying to keep the progress moving forwards, there’s a real risk that we’ll end up just going backwards again.

‘And this is against a long history of errors and mistakes in the policies at the border, those public health border policies, that have in previous waves made the pandemic significantly worse.’

Layla Moran MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on coronavirus, added: ‘We cannot allow farcical scenes to continue in which those arriving from red list countries are mixing with others in overcrowded arrival halls, potentially allowing dangerous variants to spread.

‘The government must rethink its flawed approach and discourage overseas holidays while providing proper financial support to the travel industry.’

Today, one source at Heathrow watched passengers who walked into the Terminal 2 arrivals hall at the same time after landing on flights from New York and India, having spent three hours queuing for border checks.

They said: ‘When the India flights come out, they have a man or a woman in a high vis jacket leading them, and normally they’ll bring about half a dozen people through and they get escorted, at the front and at the back.

‘They then get taken to a separate lift which goes to the basement of Heathrow and then they mix with the public again as they get onto a coach to take them to the quarantine hotel.

‘As that happens, people who were on the New York flights are rushing past the people from the India flights. so you’re less than a metre away from people who are going to be quarantined. It just makes no sense whatsoever.’ 

A passenger arriving from ‘red list’ India (left) and another arriving from New York in ‘amber list’ US (right) arrive at the same time at London Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 2 this morning

Three children walk in front of a woman at the arrivals hall at London Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 2 this morning

Heathrow Airport travellers arrive at the airport wearing full PPE suits as around five million British booked holidays to Europe

Heathrow Airport travellers arrive at the airport wearing full PPE suits as around five million British booked holidays to Europe

These passengers had taken impressive precautions today - arriving at Heathrow wearing full PPE overalls

These passengers had taken impressive precautions today – arriving at Heathrow wearing full PPE overalls 

One passenger stuck in a queue in Terminal 2 yesterday morning told MailOnline: ‘I arrived back in the country from South Africa – one of the Red Listed countries. I was more terrified catching Covid while going through border control than walking around South Africa.

‘While queuing there was no social distancing we had a plane from India arrive straight after ours and we queued for over three hours and when their plane arrived it was out the door.’

Timetable of UK travel turmoil during the pandemic

March 16, 2020: PM’s call to stay at home

Boris Johnson declares: ‘Now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others and to stop all unnecessary travel’

Mar 17: Non-essential international travel BANned for 30 days

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says advice reflects ‘pace at which other countries are either closing borders or implementing restrictive measures’

May 22: Quarantine after arriving in uk

Those coming to Britain are ordered to self-isolate for 14 days, starting from June 8. Anyone who flouts the rules faces a fine of up to £1,000

Apr 4: Non-essential travel ban extended INDEFINITELY

Jun 27: The dawn of travel corridors

The chance of quarantine-free travel is announced, beginning from July 10. The news prompts an explosion in summer holiday bookings

Jul 3: Quarantine-free destinations unveiled

Travel corridors established with some 75 countries, including Spain and France

Jul 25: Spain travel corridor closed

Quarantine brought back for travellers from Spain after it sees a spike in covid cases

Aug 13: France and netherlands travel corridors closed

Sep 4: Airport covid tests ruled out by pm

Mr Johnson said screening passengers would give a ‘false sense of security’ and only catch 7 per cent of cases.

Nov 5: Non-essential travel banned (again)

Second national lockdown begins. Britons are once again banned from going on holiday.

Dec 2: Travel resumes (except for tier 4)

New tier system introduced in UK. Travel resumes for most – but those in Tier 4 need a ‘legally permitted reason to leave home’.

Jan 6, 2021: Third ban on non-essential travel

Third lockdown begins

Jan 15: Get tested before coming to UK. Those coming to Britain are required to take a PCR test before reaching the UK. They must then self-isolate for ten days to combat the spread of new covid variants

Feb 15: Enforced hotel quarantine for some

Travellers from countries on the Government’s list of banned countries now face ten days of quarantine in approved hotels, at a cost of £1,750

May 17: Holiday ban lifted – and traffic light system begins

Those flying in from ‘red’ countries still face hotel quarantine – but Britons are now legally free to travel to nations on the ‘amber’ and ‘green’ lists.

Trips to the 12 green destinations, such as Portugal, are quarantine-free, but going to an amber country means you must self-isolate afterwards.

Same day: PM warns against holidays to amber countries

Downing Street spokesman says Britons should only take breaks in ‘green’ nations – prompting fury from travel industry (and exasperated holidaymakers, too)

Heathrow sources said consideration was being given to opening another terminal but that it was currently ‘economically not viable’.

Opening another terminal would cost millions of pounds and airport officials have told the Government that ministers would need to help foot the bill.

Terminals 2 and 5 are open but 3 and 4 have been mothballed since last year in a bid to save money due to the economic hit inflicted by the pandemic.

Re-opening another terminal will only become economically viable when more countries are added to the travel ‘green list’, meaning passenger numbers will likely increase along with revenues generated within the terminal, or if ministers stump up more financial support.   

Border sources have predicted far longer waits to get back into Britain later this month – particularly when those who began holidays yesterday begin to return.

‘The flight numbers aren’t ramping up yet but when they do it will be unworkable at the border,’ one insider told the Daily Mail. ‘We are struggling as it is.

‘There’s been a significant increase in the amount of work that has to be done for each passenger at the border – and that takes time for every single arrive, UK national or not. I fear we will be unable to cope.’  

Border checks currently involve multiple stages in addition to the usual eligibility and anti-terror screenings that are carried out by immigration officers.

Covid rules mean officers must determine whether a passenger has arrived from a green, amber or red list country, examine their ‘passenger locator form’, and that they have a valid negative Covid test certificate, as well as bookings for tests on the 2nd and 8th days after arriving.

Arrivals from red list countries must also show proof of their mandatory hotel quarantine bookings.

Steve Myall, who returned with his wife and young family from New York to Heathrow yesterday, said: ‘The border arrivals hall had people from flights from all over the place with no social distancing – red list people next to amber list. 

‘Bearing in mind kids can’t get vaccinated you would have thought they would move families through quicker.

‘I don’t see why it’s such chaos. If variants are the concern then throw money at the border or maybe a plan to make it hellish to put people off travel.’

He added: ‘I suspect it’s going to be chaos once the airport is taking UK nationals back when they’ve been away.’  

Heathrow Airport chief John Holland-Kaye insisted things had got better at the border since queues of up to seven hours last month. He said queues were now often much shorter partly due to guard numbers being boosted.

‘When I was in immigration the other day, there were no queues, we had enough desks opened and half of the e-gates in Terminal 5 were open,’ he said.

‘What I heard from the head of Border Force [Paul Lincoln] is that now that upgrade has happened all would be open unless they were taken out for upgrades.

‘So effectively most passengers who previously used e-gates will be able to use e-gates again.’ He added: ‘We have raised our concerns about what we’ve seen at the border over the last few months where there have been far longer queues than are necessary. 

‘However, by raising it as a public issue we have seen the Home Office and Border Force respond, they’ve accelerated the automation process [by opening up e-gates] which we have been calling for.

‘They put more officers on the desks and started to change their processes, and that is converting into shorter queues at the border.

‘I’m glad to see that Border Force seems to be stepping up.’ Asked if measures at the border were ‘fit for purpose’ yet, British Airways chief Sean Doyle said he was ‘encouraged’ by some of the progress made. 

But he added: ‘I think it needs to improve as we get into the summer. And I think there needs to be a commitment from all parties to make it improve. That’s going to be very important.

‘We have a lot of work to do. But we’re progressing along the right direction which is to use automation, which is to reopen the e-gates and to work as both airlines, airports and with Border Force together to get this up and running.’ 

TERMINAL crisis! Decision to close Heathrow’s T3 and T4 and Gatwick’s South Terminal has forced ‘red list’ passengers and arrivals from safer nations to mix in ‘super-spreader’ bottleneck at the borders

Passengers flying into Heathrow from high risk countries are being forced to mingle with travellers from safer destinations as concerns mount that UK airports are turning into ‘super spreaders’. 

Travellers are being crammed into queues with no social distancing from other passengers and have called the situation ‘mad’ and ’embarrassing’ amid fears covid documents are not being checked properly.  

Heathrow mothballed Terminals 3 and 4 last year in a bid to save money due to the economic hit inflicted during the pandemic, meaning all arrivals are currently piling into the same lines at 2 and 5.  

Insiders have said consideration was being given to opening another terminal, but that it was ‘economically not viable’ and that the Government will have to help foot the multi-million-pound bill. 

The decision has led to chaos, with red, amber and green list passengers all mixing with each other as border insiders say they are ‘struggling’ to cope and warn the crisis will only get worse as the number of flights increase.

A blame game has now ensued, in which Heathrow has blamed Border Force for the mixing of passengers, while Downing Street and the Home Office said airports are responsible for managing queues in a covid-secure way.   

The Government is coming under pressure from Labour to toughen up the UK border after it emerged that more than 100 direct flights from India have landed in Britain since the covid-ravaged Asian nation was placed on the banned list of travel destinations three and a half weeks ago. 

Downing Street was accused of sowing even further confusion today after education minister Gillian Keegan told travellers not to fly to amber list Spain – but admitted that flying to Europe was not illegal.   

The contradictory messages left beleaguered travel chiefs begging for clarity, with hundreds of flights to amber countries having already left the UK and demand for foreign breaks shooting through the roof.     

As the Government was accused of dithering and a farrago of indecision, it also emerged: 

  • Spanish and Greek tourism chiefs called for their island regions to be treated separately to the mainland;
  • The Army will seek to discipline soldiers who refuse to have a coronavirus jab;
  • Virus deaths hit their lowest level in more than eight months, with twice as many people now dying from flu;
  • The figures raised hopes that Boris Johnson could soon declare that lockdown curbs will end in June;
  • However the number of areas detecting the Indian variant has surged 44 per cent in a week;
  • Job vacancies hit their highest level since the start of the pandemic;
  • Dominic Cummings launched a fresh attack on the Government’s handling of the pandemic;
  • A nurse singled out by Mr Johnson for saving his life from covid has quit over the Government’s ‘lack of respect’ for the profession.

Heathrow Terminals 2 and 5 are open (in green) but 3 and 4 (in red) have been mothballed since last year to save money

A Heathrow spokesperson said: ‘Border Force is responsible for separating red list passengers in their immigration halls and automating passenger checks to reduce queue times.

‘The process the Government has designed for red list passengers, triages passengers at Heathrow between aircraft gate and the immigration hall. Those from the red list are directed into a dedicated channel.

The EU’s travel plan – but will Brits be able to go? 

  • Anyone who has received their final dose of an EU-approved vaccine at least two weeks beforehand can travel. This includes all of the vaccines approved in the UK and the US.
  • Children and adults who have not yet had a vaccine are still allowed to travel if they provide a negative test.
  • EU will produce a ‘green list’ on Friday or early next week of the low risk countries from which fully-vaccinated and tested arrivals are permitted.
  • A low risk country will be defined as one with an infection rate of less than 75 cases per 100,000 people.
  • The UK, with 44 cases per 100,000, and the US, with 35 per 100,000, make the cut. 
  • Until there is a uniform EU digital passport set up, countries should be able to ‘accept certificates from non-EU countries based on national law.’ In the case of the UK, the NHS app is anticipated to be able to provide the requisite level of proof.
  • Without the EU plan, countries are still able to welcome non-EU citizens under their own national rules. Portugal and Greece are among the countries that have already begun welcoming UK tourists without an EU-wide move.

‘After crossing the border, Government contractors then escort red list passengers to a segregated area of our baggage hall to collect their luggage before taking them to dedicated hotel quarantine transportation.

‘There are numerous measures to keep passengers and colleagues safe, including requirements for negative tests pre-departure for international arrivals, enhanced cleaning regimes, dedicated covid marshals to enforce social distancing and mandatory use of face coverings throughout the airport.’ 

Ministers are being accused of sowing ‘mass confusion’ over global travel as the Government’s traffic light policy descended into farce – with Environment Secretary George Eustice suggesting trips to amber countries to see friends and family were acceptable, before being overruled by Boris Johnson just hours later.

The Prime Minister yesterday insisted such travel was off limits, as health minister Lord Bethell claimed holidays anywhere abroad were ‘dangerous’ and foreign trips ‘not for this year’. Astonishingly, the peer even failed to rebuff the ‘idiotic’ idea that returning holidaymakers should be electronically tagged in quarantine.   

Education minister Gillian Keegan today heightened the confusion by saying that travel to amber list countries was ‘not for pleasure at the moment’ but admitting that travel to those destinations is not illegal. 

‘Amber list countries are there for a reason – they are there so that you can travel for business, you can travel for particular situations such as funerals or if there are some specific care issues in your family,’ she told Times Radio. ‘But holiday where you have a choice, we are advising you to go to the green list countries, and of course, there’s only 12 of those so most people, we anticipate, will stay at home.’

When asked if people thinking of travelling to Spain were ‘doing the wrong thing’, she replied: ‘I have a house in Spain, I lived in Spain for eight years, I’m desperate to go to Spain. But right now, it’s not the time to go to Spain.’ She then admitted the Government has not legislated to ban people from going on holiday abroad.  

Speaking to Sky News this morning, Ms Keegan said: ‘What we are saying is the amber list is not to go on holiday, not for pleasure travel at the moment. It’s not in legislation, we haven’t legislated to ban people from going on holiday abroad. 

‘This is guidance. As with many of these things we have had throughout the pandemic this has been about relying on the great British public to be sensible and follow the guidance we have put in place and taking their own decisions really. But, no, we wouldn’t advise going on holiday to the amber list countries.’ 

Positive test figures from the Wellcome Sanger Institute reveal the mutant Indian strain made up 50 per cent or more of all samples in 23 parts of the country by last week. Bolton and Blackburn in the North West remain the worst-hit areas with almost 600 cases between them and the variant making up 81 per cent of infections

Positive test figures from the Wellcome Sanger Institute reveal the mutant Indian strain made up 50 per cent or more of all samples in 23 parts of the country by last week. Bolton and Blackburn in the North West remain the worst-hit areas with almost 600 cases between them and the variant making up 81 per cent of infections

However, she suggested the green list of countries where people can take overseas holidays may be expanded next month.

Ms Keegan said there would probably be an announcement ‘a week or two before’ the next stage of the lifting of lockdown restrictions.

‘As we get to the next stage of the unlocking – June 21 – I think people are hoping there are more countries on the green list but right now there are only 12 on the green list and they are the only ones you can go on holiday to,’ she told LBC radio.

Scenes of arrivals from red list and amber list countries all queueing together at Heathrow have sparked calls for a toughening of the UK border – with Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth calling it as secure as a ‘sieve’ during the pandemic. 

He told Sky News: ‘Our shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds has long been calling on your programme and other programmes that we need a comprehensive border policy.

‘Our borders have been about as secure as a sieve throughout this crisis and it’s why we are seeing these variants bounce at us. There’s probably going to be more of this as well, so we have got to work internationally to bring infection rates down and make sure the world is vaccinated. But we have also got to have secure borders and controls as well.’

Mr Ashworth added he would not travel to a country on the Government’s amber list. Speaking to Sky News, he said the Government’s messaging around international travel had been ‘confusing’.

He said: ‘I think people just want clarity. Because people want to do the right thing and there are people who will just want a holiday.’

Asked if he would go to a country on the amber list, he said: ‘No, no I wouldn’t. At the moment I’m planning on going on holiday to Devon or Cornwall or somewhere, if I do get a holiday.’

Which European countries are welcoming UK tourists back? 

Overseas travel is restarting in Europe as vaccine drives gather pace and Covid infections fall.

Britons are now allowed to holiday abroad after the government repealed a law banning non-essential travel abroad.

The UK is using a traffic light system to determine who has to quarantine when they get home, but that is only part of the puzzle – holiday-makers will also have to find a country willing to let them in.

So, where in Europe is allowing UK tourists to visit?

Portugal

A favourite destination of UK sun-seekers, Portugal also has the distinction of being one of a few countries included on the government’s travel ‘green list’ meaning people do not have to quarantine after arriving home.

After some flip-flopping on the issue, Portugal agreed to allow British arrivals into the country starting on Monday.  

All arrivals will have to take a PCR test no more than 72 hours beforehand, and bring the negative results with them to be allowed into the country.

Iceland

Visitors from any foreign nation are being allowed into the country provided they can show proof of vaccination or a previous Covid infection.

Tourists then have to take a PCR test on arrival and wait in their hotel for the results, but border authorities say this will be no longer than 24 hours and is usually over in five or six hours.

There is a complicated list of exemptions for those who are not vaccinated, but it is unlikely that most people will qualify.

Iceland also has the benefit of being on the UK’s green list which comes into force on Monday, meaning you won’t need to quarantine after arriving home.

Greece 

Since April, Greece’s borders have been open to foreign arrivals provided they can show a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure or that they have been fully vaccinated with an EU-approved Covid jab.

Arrivals also need to complete a passenger locator form including details of where they have travelled and where they are staying so it can be used by test and trace authorities in the case of an outbreak.

Croatia

Tourists are welcome to travel provided they have taken a negative PCR test within 48 hours of departure, have evidence of previous infection, or are fully vaccinated.

Arrivals will also need to provide evidence that they have paid for accommodation within the country – which can include campsites – or own property there.

Travellers are also required to complete a form, which can either be done on arrival or in advance online.

Cyprus

The Mediterranean island is welcoming tourists provided they have been fully vaccinated, can show evidence of a previous infection or have taken a negative PCR test within 72 hours of departure.

Travellers also need to register for a flight pass no later than 24 hours before departure.

For those using a PCR test to get into the country, details of the test will need to be entered into the online form, meaning they will have to plan the timing of the test carefully.

Turkey

Despite the country being in almost-total lockdown, Turkey is allowing tourists in without a PCR test or evidence of vaccination.

Tourists are largely exempt from the lockdown rules – which have confined Turks to their homes for weeks – while hotels and other businesses involved directly in tourism have been allowed to remain open.

However, many other businesses – such as shops and restaurants – remain closed. City streets are also deserted, which could be a blessing or a curse, depending on your idea of a good holiday.

Other major European tourist destinations have also begun laying out plans to let tourists back in, though have not finalised them yet. They are…

Italy

Prime Minister Mario Draghi said last week that Italy plans to run its own ‘green pass scheme’ which would allow tourists in from any country provided they are vaccinated, have previously been infected, or have tested negative.

Mr Draghi said the scheme would be in place by ‘mid-May’, raising hopes that it might be ready in time for Britain’s rules to relax on May 17.

But since his initial announcement, no further details have been published leading to frustration and confusion among those hoping to travel. 

France

Currently, France is allowing people into the country for non-essential reasons provided they have a negative PCR test taken 72 hours before arrival. 

However, all UK arrivals must also self-isolate for seven days after arriving or face a £1,000 fine – ruling out a large amount of tourist travel.

Plans are in the works to drop the self isolation requirement, with Emmanuel Macron giving a date of June 9 for the rules to change.  

Under the new plans, all visitors would have to obtain a Pass Sanitaire, essentially a green certificate with evidence of a negative Covid test or vaccination required to qualify.

Like the UK’s roadmap, France’s unlocking requires infections to be falling in order to progress, meaning it could be called off or delayed. 

Cases are currently declining in the country, though at a very gradual pace. 

Spain

Fernando Valdes, Spain’s tourism minister, laid out his plans for reopening the tourist economy last month and predicted the country will be ready to welcome back foreign arrivals in June.

Like other countries, entry would be dependent on some kind of green pass scheme requiring evidence of vaccination, a past infection, or negative test taken shortly before travel.

Valdes said a pilot scheme would run throughout May and that Spain would be ‘ready to receive visitors in June’.

No further details have been given. 

Other European nations are currently not allowing tourists in, and have not announced plans to allow it. 

This includes Germany, which has made it illegal for companies to transport people there for non-essential purposes. 

Others nations which ban non-essential travel include the likes of Norway, Sweden, the Czech Republic, and Switzerland.   

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk