Angry Britons have vowed to continue flying to Spain despite facing 10 days quarantine if the country is put on the ‘amber plus’ list.
Travellers at Heathrow Terminal 5 said any change in the rules ‘won’t stop us going on holiday’ as they prepared to jet to the Mediterranean.
They said a break in the sun outweighs the risk even if they are not ‘made of money’ because ‘we all need to get away and relax’.
Meanwhile Britons in Spain told of their confusion and concern about the travel lists, set to be reviewed on August 5.
Holidaymakers could face fresh chaos amid claims Spain is on the verge of being placed on the ‘amber plus’ list for quarantine.
The move, which could leave hundreds of thousands of Britons having to self-isolate unexpectedly on return, is believed to be on the cards amid growing concern about cases of the South African variant.
But Whitehall sources are increasingly confident France will be downgraded to ‘amber’ when the categories are reviewed next week – and there are hopes Germany and Austria could go green.
Yet any change in the restrictions could mean travellers have to pay up to £225 for the test to release package plus £99 for the pre-holiday PCR test. It would still be about £200 for a PCR if someone opts for the 10-day quarantine.
The speculation comes as the ‘Covid O’ group of ministers decided fully-vaccinated travellers from the EU and US will be spared quarantine after ministers signed off an exemption.
Despite Labour branding it ‘reckless’, the easing went ahead after Boris Johnson voiced concerns the EU was further ahead in welcoming international travellers than the UK and risk ‘squandering its vaccine bonus’.
There is also a new wave of optimism after coronavirus cases tumbled for a seventh day running – with ministers privately claiming the crisis is now ‘all over bar the shouting’.
Mr Johnson said this morning that dropping self-isolation rules for people who are ‘pinged’ is ‘nailed on’ for August 16.
But he is defying furious Tory demands for the date to be brought forward, amid warnings from businesses of food shortages caused by so many staff being off.
As the country waits anxiously for the next phase of the pandemic:
- The International Monetary Fund upgraded its forecasts to predict the UK economy would bounce back with 7 per cent growth this year;
- Boris Johnson slapped down Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove for branding vaccine refusers ‘selfish’ and warning they could be barred from venues;
- The Department of Health admitted daily testing was just as effective as self-isolation;
- New figures revealed a record 1.13million children were off school in the final week of term because of self-isolation rules;
- Leaked Covid hospitalisation figures suggested almost half of patients tested positive only after being admitted;
- A further 131 virus-related deaths were reported – the highest figure since March – while Covid patients in hospital rose to 5,918.
Melissa Garcia (pictured), 27, a student from London, turned up at Heathrow to jet off on holiday with her friends, but was not allowed to fly because she only had her second Covid jab last week
Tourists returning to the UK from Spain will have to quarantine for 10 days, regardless of jabs, if it is placed on the amber-plus list next week. Pictured: Heathrow today
There is also a new wave of optimism after coronavirus cases tumbled for a seventh day running – with ministers privately claiming the crisis is now ‘all over bar the shouting’. Pictured: Playa Segur de Calafell Beach in Calafell, Spain, last month
Britain is open for business! Ministers back dropping quarantine rules for fully-vaccinated travellers from EU and US as well as ex-pats who had jabs abroad
Fully-vaccinated travellers from the EU and US are set to be spared quarantine after ministers signed off an exemption today.
The powerful ‘Covid O’ group is understood to have agreed that the self-isolation requirements can be dropped for some of the UK’s major trading partners.
Ex-pats who have received jabs abroad are also set to be given a dispensation. All will still need to get tests in a bid to reduce the risk that they are infected.
Boris Johnson had privately voiced concerns the EU was further ahead in welcoming international travellers and the UK risked ‘squandering its vaccine bonus’.
The policy decision applies to England, but there is an expectation that Scotland and Wales will follow suit.
However, Labour has branded the approach ‘reckless’, warning it risks importing more variants.
Tourists returning to the UK from Spain will have to quarantine for 10 days, regardless of jabs, if it is placed on the amber-plus list next week.
France is currently the only country on the plus-list after a rise in Beta-variant cases sparked concern. But this could be about to change.
The government is planning on reviewing its ‘traffic light’ country ratings next Wednesday or Thursday, with Spain and Greece rumoured to be in the amber-plus firing line.
But Spanish bound passengers say a holiday outweighs the risk, even if they’re not ‘made of money’.
Laura Morrison, a 44-year-old teacher from Richmond, south west London, who is taking her family to Lanzarote for two weeks, said: ‘It’s our first holiday of the year and it’s been really stressful, especially getting all the tests and stuff for my two daughters.
‘I know it’s risky taking a holiday, because if Spain gets put on the amber-plus list my husband would have to take a test to release for work.
‘But the children have been stuck inside for months and, although we’re not made of money, we all need to get away and relax.
‘The whole traffic light system is just confusing: they should just leave it as red, amber and green.
‘I think it’s really a money-maker for the Government. The tests should be free and people should not be penalised for going on holiday.’
Melissa Garcia, 27, a student from London, turned up at Heathrow to jet off on holiday with her friends, but was not allowed to fly because she only had her second Covid jab last week.
She said: ‘I’m studying in London and was suppose to fly to Madrid today for a holiday with my friends, but because I only got my second jab last week, I can’t go.
‘So British Airways booked me on a flight next week free of charge, but my friends won’t be there anymore. If they put Spain on the amber-plus list then I’ll have to quarantine when I get back, but I would rather that than cancel my holiday.
‘They should make it a different colour because I think it would be easier to understand. It’s really confusing having an amber-plus list.’
Reprieve? Travel to France (left) might soon be easier… but holidaymakers in Spain may have to quarantine even if double-jabbed
Whitehall sources are increasingly confident that France will be removed from the ‘amber plus’ list, which requires people to self-isolate for ten days on return even if fully vaccinated. Pictured, Mahon, the capital city of Menorca in Spain
Arthur, 18, who recently finished school, said: ‘I’m visiting some family friends in Ibiza for about five days. My travels are pretty much done after this trip, but I can understand why people are getting frustrated.
‘If Spain gets put on the amber plus list and I have to quarantine, I would be annoyed. I wouldn’t want to waste two weeks of my summer, so I would look at just going somewhere else like France or Portugal.’
Another passenger, also travelling to Lanzarote from Heathrow, said: ‘It is what it is really. If you’ve decided to go away you’ve weighed up your risk already, so it doesn’t really matter if it’s amber or amber plus.
‘With all tests you have to pay for and paper work to fill out, I think most people will have weighed up the risks before travelling.’
Akilla Gaziza, 50, a teacher for children with special needs from Kew Bridge, West London, said: ‘I’m going to Portugal with my 11-year-old daughter for a week to relax and get some sun.
What are the rules on returning to England from an amber list country?
Since July 19, people who have received both vaccine doses in the UK at least 14 days prior to travelling have not been required to self-isolate when returning from ‘amber list’ destinations.
They are also not obliged to take a Covid test on day eight after getting back.
However, that get-out does not apply to ‘amber plus’ France at the moment amid concerns about the prevalence of the Beta – or South African – strain.
Non-vaccinated people returning from ‘amber list’ countries must take a private PCR or lateral flow test in the three days before departing for England.
Before arriving back you must also book and pay for day two and day eight Covid-19 tests.
You can choose to pay for a private Covid-19 test on day five, and if it is negative that ends self-isolation.
‘I think it’s fantastic news because I like my freedom and it’s a real sense of liberty.
‘Before it was very stressful because there were too many rules and regulations.
‘When you came through passport control you felt like a convict.
‘Now, you just download the NHS app and it shows I’ve been double jabbed.
‘The only thing they have to work on is getting the app on Android.’
Ollie, a 29-year-old researcher, said: ‘I’m visiting my cousin and aunt in Portugal for 10 days.
‘I’ve been double vaccinated so I think it’s a good thing.
‘I actually went to a walk-in centre to get my second vaccine early.
‘I wouldn’t want us to get rid of all the restrictions, but waving goodbye to quarantine is a relief.
‘I’ve not been able to see my family in over year and it’s been tough.
‘There always going to be an issue with whose last in the queue with these things.
‘I think people who chose not to get the jab can always reconsider if they want to avoid quarantining.’
But not everyone is happy with the ‘get out of jail’ double vaccine rule, claiming it’s unfair and discriminatory for those who have not been jabbed.
Flora Perez, 41, from Galicia in Spain, who visits her boyfriend in Devon regularly and is planning on moving to the UK said: ‘I have not yet been vaccinated and don’t plan on doing so.
‘I think my immune system is strong enough and I don’t know what’s in those vaccines. Plus, the Covid rates are really low, and I just think the vaccines are experimental.
‘I think it’s totally unfair and discriminatory that people who are vaccinated don’t have to quarantine.
‘They can catch the virus too and my reasons for not getting it are personal. If I don’t have any symptoms then I think I should be allowed to travel – especially seeing as I’ve had to get tested.’
The UK economy is estimated to be losing as much as £639million every day because of the current limits in place on incoming tourists.
After the fully-vaccinated EU and US travellers, other countries could be added to the quarantine-free travel list at a later date.
Travellers at Heathrow Terminal 5 said any change in the rules ‘won’t stop us going on holiday’ as they prepared to jet to the Mediterranean. Pictured: Heathrow today
They said a holiday in the sun outweighs the risk even if they are not ‘made of money’ because ‘we all need to get away and relax’. Pictured: Heathrow today
Holidaymakers could face fresh chaos amid claims Spain is on the verge of being placed on the ‘amber plus’ list for quarantine. Pictured: Heathrow today
The move, which could leave hundreds of thousands of Britons having to self-isolate unexpectedly on return, is believed to be on the cards amid growing concern about cases of the South African variant. Pictured: Heathrow today
Since July 19, double jabbed Britons have been able to travel to and from amber list countries without quarantining upon their return, but the same right was not extended to those who received jabs abroad.
The plans would initially only apply to England but other UK nations could follow suit.
Under the proposals, airlines will be expected to approve passengers’ vaccine status before check-in for England-bound flights, to prevent huge queues at passport control.
A trial was carried out by Heathrow, BA and Virgin which found they could overcome 99 per cent of the difficulties in verifying the vaccination status of travellers from the US.
Different states have different paper and digital certificates, but airports and airlines are hoping for the new rules to be smoothly adopted.
Holiday cover blow
Families who lose their holidays because one or more member is ‘pinged’ face losing their cash as well.
Many travel insurance policies will not cover people who have to cancel after a notification to self-isolate from the NHS Test & Trace app.
Nine in 10 policies do pay out if the policyholder tests positive for Covid. But this falls to six in 10 when a trip is cancelled due to a ping, said analysts Defaqto. Amid fears of a hit to bookings, package holiday firm TUI is allowing people pinged to change their dates for free.
Anna-Marie Duthie, from Defaqto, said some insurers would be sympathetic, but added: ‘Policyholders should read their policies carefully to be sure they fully understand what cover they have, and if in doubt contact their insurers before changing any travel plans.’
Ministers will also approve plans to allow all double vaccinated expats to travel to the UK from amber list countries without the need to quarantine. Only Britons vaccinated by the NHS are currently exempt from quarantine.
Travellers who transit through certain red country hubs such as Dubai, Doha, Istanbul, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi could also avoid hotel quarantine if they remain airside during their connections, according to The Telegraph.
But Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner condemned the plans for quarantine exemptions. ‘This is reckless. We know that the Delta variant came into this country and delayed the lifting of some of the restrictions and caused infections here,’ she told Sky News.
‘We need to make sure that we have got data driven analysis and we look at an international passport for vaccines. We also know that people who have had the vaccine of course can still get the virus, so a testing regime is very important and crucial as well.’
Meanwhile Britons in Spain told of their confusion and concern about the travel lists, set to be reviewed on August 5.
Danuta Kay, 55, from Warrington, Cheshire, who owns a holiday home with husband Steve, 56, said: ‘We go back on August 10th so it’s obviously a concern for us.
‘I’m a pharmacist and work in a GP surgery and can work remotely if I have to but don’t want to. My mum depends on us for errands like shopping so that would also be a problem.
‘We knew there was a possibility it might happen when we came out here but we lost £600 on flights here last year even though the government was advising people not to travel because Ryanair wouldn’t refund us.
‘We have a property here and we really needed to check up on it.’ Steve, who dabbles in property, added: ‘I think everyone’s just getting a bit sick of all the changes. It’s one thing one week and another the next.
‘They just need to let it go so we can try to get back to some sort of normality. We come here regularly and it’s sad to see how many places have had to close because of the pandemic and the lack of tourists.’
Joan Todd, 67, who had just got her fit-to-fly test result with husband David, 81, before travelling back home tomorrow to Hessle, East Yorkshire, said: ‘It won’t affect us this time round if Spain goes on the amber plus list.
‘But we’re due to meet up with our son next month in Ibiza who lives in Holland and has hired a yacht and it would really spoil things.
‘We haven’t seen him last year. I suppose he’ll want us to go ahead with the holiday but we could do without having to quarantine in an ideal world.
‘I read Spain could go on the amber list on MailOnline this morning. We read it every day. I’ll obviously be keeping a close eye on things from now on.
Proof Covid is turning into a mild illness? Survivors who get reinfected have lower viral loads which make them less likely to become unwell or spread the virus
Covid survivors who get reinfected have lower viral loads and are less likely to suffer symptoms, official data suggested today.
Scientists claim the figures — taken from an analysis of almost 20,000 Britons — are proof the disease is becoming milder.
Studies show infected people who have lower viral loads are less likely to become ill and spread the virus.
Last April, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) began examining people who had been struck down with Covid to determine the risk of them catching it again.
Of the 19,470 people they studied between April 2020 and July 2021, 195 went on to catch Covid for a second time.
This equated to just one per cent of people being reinfected.
‘We’re lucky in that we can self-isolate but I pity the families who can’t afford quarantine because of work and would end up having to pay even more money on tests than they do now.’
Retired police officer Stan Hegarty, enjoying a beer at a beachfront bar in La Cala de Mijas near Fuengirola with wife June, said: ‘We rent a property here and fly back and forth several times a year.
‘This time round we’re here till August 9 but we’ve already got flights back here booked for November. We’d come even if Spain goes on the amber plus list. But my worry at the moment is my daughter who’s due to come next week with her partner.
‘She’s a manageress at a clothing store and she’s fully vaccinated but there’s no way she’d come if she has to quarantine when she gets back.
‘She knows it’s touch and go as to whether Spain is kept on the normal amber list. I don’t understand all the regulations and I don’t think the politicians who make them understand them either. They change every day.’
His wife, who comes from Durham, added: ‘We feel totally safe here, whatever they say about these new variants. We’ve been coming to Spain for 20 years and the Costa del Sol is a home-from-home for us.
‘I think it’s all about money and the UK government wanting to keep people at home so they spend their cash there.’
Andy Fordham, heading to the beach with son Logan, three, to meet up with his wife after a trip to the twice-weekly market at La Cala de Mijas with friend James Simpson and his son Finley, also three, said: ‘It’s all very confusing and it makes any sort of planning very difficult.
‘We booked to come out here in January and we didn’t know right up until the last minute whether we were going to be able to make it.
‘My wife has been worrying constantly about this amber plus list. It’s a relief for us that no announcement is due to be made till August 5 because we leave this Friday.’
Mark and Gemma Harris, from Calf Heath, near Wolverhampton, relaxing at a beach bar with daughter Maya, nine, are due to fly back home on August 8.
Sales worker Mark, 41, said: ‘I’ve been working remotely now for more than two months so can do the quarantine and work at the same time but I’d obviously prefer not to.
‘The extra testing involved if Spain moves to the amber plus list also pushes the price up when it’s a family holiday. I think the government should be more lenient with people like us who are fully-vaccinated.
‘We were led to believe we could start living more normal lives once we were jabbed and the goalposts seem to be moving all the time.
‘The challenge of knowing exactly what you need and when if you’re going on holiday right now is massive. We know this area well and I find it very quiet at the moment. There seems to be a lot less British holidaymakers now than on previous visits and a lot more Scandinavians.’
Current amber and red list destinations. A review of the UK travel list is expected on Wednesday or Thursday next week
Expat Donna Shafto, manageress at Cafe Boulevard in La Cala de Mijas, said: ‘Last year was very tough and business has picked up with the arrival of UK tourists.
‘It would be a real kick in the teeth for us if Spain was put on the amber plus list. British holidaymakers are good customers for us.
‘My husband works as a waiter at an English restaurant here. He’s only just gone back after being furloughed for ages and he’s dreading the news on August 5 as his hours are bound to be cut again if fully-vaccinated Brits have to quarantine because a lot will just stop coming.’
Tony Miller, enjoying his first pint less than an hour after jetting to Malaga with wife Susie, said: ‘Luckily we’re flying back before August 5 and I buy and sell cars online so I can work off my phone.
‘We’re coming back again in November but that’s as long as Spain doesn’t go on the red list or we don’t have to start quarantining when we get here. You can’t be sure at the moment what’s going to happen from one day to the next.’
His wife, from Warrington, Cheshire, added: ‘I think it’s ludicrous they make fully-vaccinated people self-isolate when they get back home.
‘That and all the pinging that’s going on, it’s a minefield. We know loads of people who have ditched the NHS track and trace app.’
Zoe Humphreys, 38, from Oldham, Greater Manchester, waiting for Covid test results before flying home with self-employed construction worker husband Darryl and their three children Levi, 14, Lillie Mae, nine, and Archie, five, said: ‘We’ll be back home before any decision to move Spain to the amber plus list. I’m really relieved about that.
‘It’s bad enough already with the price of the tests. We’ve already paid POUNDS 195 each for four PCR tests when we get home and we’ve just forked out £135 for three antigen tests here so we can fly back.
‘We came to see my sister who lives here. It’s the first time we’ve seen her in 12 months. We’ve had two holidays cancelled over the past year.’
Her husband added: ‘It’s all a load of b###ocks. We’ve both been fully-vaccinated. We need to get back to some sort of normality. We were sold this idea that if we had our Covid jabs we’d be able to travel freely. That’s just not happened.’
Pressure to change Spain’s designation follows concern about the Beta variant, which emerged in South Africa and is thought to be more resistant to the AstraZeneca vaccine given to millions in the UK.
A Whitehall source said: ‘The situation in Spain is beginning to feel a lot like the build-up to the decision on France.
‘The Department of Health are getting very jumpy about the number of Beta cases in parts of the country. We’re not talking about the main tourist hotspots, but that might not make any difference – it didn’t with France.’
The shock move to place France in its own category earlier this month wrecked thousands of families’ holidays as well as the plans of many expats hoping to see loved ones for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
Cases of the Delta variant have fallen sharply in France in recent weeks and ministers are confident it will be restored to the same status as other amber list countries, meaning fully vaccinated travellers will no longer have to quarantine when they return.
One source said: ‘France is going to happen. It should never have been left out in the first place – the Department of Health just panicked. But there could be no justification for keeping restrictions in place now.’
Any move to put Spain on the ‘amber plus’ list is likely to provoke a fierce row within Government.
Although there is concern about the Beta variant, many experts believe it is being ‘crowded out’ by the more virulent Delta variant now spreading rapidly across Spain.
Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist at the University of Warwick, told MailOnline: ‘I think that this whole travel situation is a mess with no consistent approach and lots of mixed messages.
‘By what criteria are these decisions about amber-plus countries being made?
‘Spain has had higher levels of the beta variant for some time so placing it on the amber-plus list now feels a bit like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted!
‘Much better to keep the before and after testing regime approach with proof of full vaccination.’
The shock move to place France in its own category earlier this month wrecked thousands of families’ holidays. Pictured, a covid testing site by the Eiffel Tower in France
Spain has seen a recent uptick in infections that could force the government to add it to the travel quarantine list