Popular holiday destinations including Jamaica, Barbados, Malta and the Canary and Balearic islands should be immediately moved onto the UK’s green list, a top travel expert said today.
Paul Charles, chief executive at The PC Agency, also included Grenada, Morocco and Finland as green on his unofficial traffic light system based on current infection rates and the percentage of people who have been vaccinated.
The UK government gives a traffic light ranking to each country based on a complex raft of data, including test rates per 100,000 and the ability to do regular genomic sequencing to check for variants.
It comes as officials in the Balearic Islands and Canary Islands revealed they are hoping to make the UK’s green list in the next ‘traffic light’ system review at the start of next month, even if mainland Spain remains on amber.
Officials have not made public the benchmark number of positive tests per 100,000 a country must not breach to be ranked green, making it difficult to compare the system with unofficial alternatives. But Mr Charles said his green list is based on ‘official sources from various governments’.
Mr Charles told MailOnline: ‘We have added the additional column showing what countries should be on the green list based at looking at the infection rates and the percentage of the population who have been vaccinated in each country. The benchmarks we have used are based on knowledge gathered from official sources both in the UK and other countries.’
He revealed ‘several criteria determine a country’s colour’, but only two are key – the 14-day infection rate and ‘ability to do regular genomic sequencing, to check for variants’.
Paul Charles, chief executive at The PC Agency, also included Grenada, Morocco and Finland as green on his unofficial traffic light system based on current infection rates and the percentage of people who have been vaccinated
Officials have not made public the benchmark number of positive tests per 100,000 a country must not breach to be ranked green, making it difficult to compare the system with unofficial alternatives. But Mr Charles said his green list is based on ‘official sources from various governments’. Pictured, Malta
Mr Charles revealed ‘several criteria determine a country’s colour’, but only two are key – the 14-day infection rate and ‘ability to do regular genomic sequencing, to check for variants’. Pictured, Doctor’s Cove beach in Montego Bay, Jamaica
Meanwhile, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has confirmed islands would be looked at separately when travel rules are updated on June 7.
Iago Negueruela, the Balearic Islands’ tourism minister, has spent several weeks campaigning for the region to be treated separately from the Spanish mainland so British tourists can book holidays without having to quarantine on their return.
On Twitter he wrote: ‘Balearic society has made a titanic effort together in the last year. Now it’s time to reap the benefits of the restrictions: we will recover pre-pandemic air connectivity thanks to our health security.’
The islands’ 14-day cumulative coronavirus rate is currently 37,67 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, lower than Portugal’s, and some 40 people with Covid are in hospital in the islands, 18 per cent less than a week ago.
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: ‘Country classification on the department’s traffic light system is guided by the evidence and analysis of a range of key factors, including rates of infection, the prevalence of variants of concern, and the country’s access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing.’
It comes as France becomes the latest country to ban British tourists from travelling there due to the spread of the Indian variant.
Holidays and other non-essential trips to France will be banned for Britons from Monday, it was announced yesterday, while those who are allowed to travel face mandatory self-isolation for seven days and will have to provide a mandatory negative PCR or lateral flow test taken no more than 48 hours before departure.
However, the French government seemed to row back on the threat of police checks today, with a government spokesman telling Le Parisien: ‘For the moment, given the low incidence of Covid in Great Britain, the home control system will not be applied to them.’
Visitors from the 15 countries already on the quarantine list, such as Brazil, India and Turkey, can be fined up to €1,500 for failing to self-isolate.
The new rules for France will come in place at midnight on Sunday, as the country joins Austria and Germany in tightening rules on British visitors in response to the spread of the Indian variant, which is now responsible for most new cases in the UK, according to leading epidemiologist Professor Neil Ferguson.
Today Paul Charles suggested the French move would only be temporary.
He told MailOnline: ‘This is hopefully only a very short term measure from France until it becomes clearly how the Indian variant is behaving in the UK. So I don’t expect it to last too long, and it should be removed later in June.
‘Countries in Europe are beginning to worry about the extent of the variant and as the UK has such advanced testing capability it needs to publish its data as soon as possible in order to reassure other countries.
‘But I don’t expect this to last more than a month so I don’t expect this to impact the summer season. I think we’ll be in a different place by the middle of June.’
It came as new data suggested Britain’s coronavirus outbreak may not be spiralling out of control, with the number of people falling ill with symptoms of the disease falling by up to 10 per cent over the last week, according to a symptom-tracking app.
Academics at King’s College London and health-tech firm ZOE estimate that 2,550 Britons — and 1,919 people in England — were becoming ill every day on May 23. For comparison, figures a week before stood at 2,750 and 2,132, respectively.
Professor Tim Spector, the epidemiologist behind the Covid app, admitted that the Indian variant was becoming dominant in the UK. But he said national figures ‘remain unaffected’, despite numerous measures saying that the outbreak is starting to get bigger with the quick growth of the B.1.617.2 strain.
Portugal is the only major tourist destination on Britain’s ‘green list’, meaning people can go without the need to quarantine
Covid-19 cases in a selection of the ‘amber list’ European countries where Britons don’t have to quarantine upon arrival
It came as Carolina Darias, Spain’s Health Minister, today defended the decision to put the UK on the country’s safe list and exempt people from Britain from providing proof of jabs or negative Covid tests.
Speaking after a meeting with regional health chiefs, Mrs Darias said: ‘We will keep tabs on the situation, but the conditions to open up to tourism are there.
‘That’s especially true for British tourism, with the UK being one of the countries with most influence in our tourism market which is a fundamental part of our economy.’
She also highlighted the UK’s low accumulated coronavirus rate, as the number of hospitalised COVID-19 patients fell last week to its lowest level since September.
Coronavirus infections in the UK have been rising again, but the overall incidence is still low in a country with one of the world’s fastest vaccine rollouts.
Clusters of the B.1.617 Indian variant have grown quickly, however, to 3,424 as of last Thursday, up by 2,111 from similar numbers the previous week. The Indian variant has been reported in at least 17 countries.
The French government’s announcement will be a blow to parts of the beleaguered tourism industry, which is desperate for a return to normal business ahead of the peak summer season.
‘It’s reasonable in terms of saving the French summer but will be very punishing for those regions which depend on British holidaymakers,’ said Ge Kusters, owner of Le Paradis campsite in the Dordogne area and president of the regional campsite union.
‘More financial support is going to have to follow.’
British tourists had been due to be allowed to visit France without restrictions from June 9 if they carried a certificate of vaccination against COVID-19 or a negative COVID-19 PCR test.
Some 13 million Britons visited France every year before the coronavirus crisis began in early 2020, more than any other nationality, according to official data.
French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had raised the possibility of tougher restrictions for British tourists on Sunday.
He suggested the UK could be put in a health category of its own, somewhere in between the strictest measures that France is imposing on visitors from India and 15 other countries, and more relaxed requirements being readied for visitors from the EU and some other countries.
Without giving specifics, Mr Le Drian said there was potential for ‘health measures that are a bit stronger’ but Paris is watching the progress of the Indian variant before making final decisions.
‘We hope that the variant can be controlled in a country which experienced real failures during the pandemic,’ he said.
‘However, the arrival of the Indian variant and the increase of cases of Indian variant in the United Kingdom pose a problem and so we are vigilant about this (and) in contact with the British authorities,’ he added.
‘It won’t be the red treatment if we have to do it. It will be an intermediate treatment,’ the minister said.
‘But it is not excluded – this springs to mind because of British tourists – that we have health measures that are a bit stronger.’
The tougher restrictions come after Germany declared Britain and Northern Ireland a virus variant region last week and required anyone entering the country from the UK to quarantine for two weeks on arrival.
Austria also yesterday banned British tourists over fears about the Indian Covid variant.
Rory Boland, Which? Travel Editor, said: ‘France’s decision to quarantine UK travellers in response to the Indian variant is a stark reminder of the unpredictability of international travel this year.
‘People would have already been confused about what travel is safe and permitted due to the country’s status on the UK’s amber list, and this announcement will cause even more stress for those with an upcoming booking.
‘Many will be surprised to find that changing entry requirements and mandatory quarantine at your destination won’t always trigger a refund, especially for flights.
‘This demonstrates just how important it is for anyone thinking about booking a trip in the next few months to do so with a holiday company that has the most flexible booking policies available, so they are protected against significant disruption to travel plans that can often occur at short notice.’
Some 13 million Britons had visited France every year before the coronavirus crisis began in early 2020.
Other European nations have since welcomed British holidaymakers back to their beaches with open arms.
Travellers will soon be able to visit 20 destinations on the Continent without having to quarantine upon arrival – despite 18 of those welcoming sun-seekers still being on the ‘amber list.’
Spain has lifted its restrictions on travellers from the UK, with Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez saying: ‘Spain will be delighted, very delighted to welcome all British tourists’.
The popular holiday hotspot joins Italy, Greece and Cyprus in permitting Britons to arrive without quarantine.
However, if tourists do decide to travel to these ‘amber list’ destinations, they will need to self-isolate for 10 days and get tested twice upon their return to the UK.
People wait in a line to receive vaccinations in Barcelona today after Spain lifted the travel restriction from the UK
Tourists and beachgoers enjoy the sea, sand and sun along the Mare e Sol beach in Coti-Chiavari last summer
British tourists had been due to be allowed to visit France without restrictions from June 9 if they carried a certificate of vaccination against Covid-19 or a negative PCR test.
Visitors from the UK are currently required to present a negative PCR test carried out less than 72 hours before departure and self-isolate for seven days.
They are then asked to take another PCR test which must be negative for them to end the quarantine period.
It is unclear how the tightened restrictions announced today will change these measures.
France is broadly following the EU’s template for welcoming tourists, which are in the process of being updated. A ‘traffic light system’ should be fleshed out soon for what the restrictions for each category will be.
The latest blow for British holidaymakers comes as travel bosses today slammed Downing Street’s ‘utterly confusing’ advice on foreign holidays and demanded the ‘green list’ is quickly expanded.
The CEOs of easyJet, British Airways, Ryanair, Jet2, Tui UK and others have written to the Prime Minister to share their frustration at ministers’ recent comments telling Britons travel is ‘dangerous’ and urging them to ‘stay in this country’ rather than holiday abroad.
They asked Boris Johnson to ‘bank the gains from the huge success of the vaccination programme and expand the green list’ to include the US, the Caribbean and other European hotspots, saying Britons are now being left behind their neighbours.
The signatories, which also included the CEO of Virgin Atlantic and Loganair, added they ‘fully understand’ concerns about the Indian variant of Covid-19, but say comments made in the past week have ‘moved the goalposts’ and ‘undermined the very purpose of the risk-based traffic light system.’
The letter says: ‘The Government now appears not to want a meaningful restart to international travel this summer, and it is impossible for any business or consumers to plan under this scenario, such that we are genuinely fearful that some UK businesses may fail.
‘Failures can be avoided. The science shows clearly the green list can be expanded safely now, including to many European countries, the US and the Caribbean.
‘Many currently amber countries have significant levels of vaccinations, rapidly decreasing case numbers and, according to test and trace data, often considerably less than one per cent of arrivals testing positive with no identified variants of concern entering the country. Under an evidence-based system based on risk, these should be green.’
It comes as it emerged today that some of the most popular holiday islands for eager British holidaymakers may soon be added to the quarantine-free ‘green’ list – even if their mainland is not.
This raises the prospect of summer travel to the Greek, Canary and Balearic islands as the next tranche of green list countries are announced next month, even if Spain and Greece remain amber.
Speaking in the letter today, travel leaders warned the UK risks ‘falling behind the rest of the world, with long-term consequences for our connectivity and prospects of a Global Britain’ if it remains grounded while the rest of Europe opens up.
They added that Britain has ‘never been in a better position’ to manage the risk from Covid-19 due to its highly successful vaccine roll-out which today opened to those aged 30 and above.
Fuengirola beach near Malaga is pictured on Monday as UK holidaymakers set their sights on a trip to Spain
Three women talk to each other while sunbathing on the beach at Fuengirola near Malaga in Spain on Monday
The letter added: ‘Along with the vaccination programme, our testing system allows us to assess inbound risk from medium and higher risk countries. With this safety net, we urge you to stick to the established framework, end confusion for travellers and allow our businesses to plan.
‘Airlines can deliver a meaningful restart safely but a second lost summer for the sector, due to a limited expansion of the green list compared to our neighbours, would cause lasting damage to the UK’s aviation, travel and tourism industries.
‘In that case there would be an urgent need for a dedicated aviation economic support package to safeguard many thousands of jobs otherwise under threat and protect the essential infrastructure that will be critical to the UK’s recovery and future prosperity.’
Speaking earlier, the CEO of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays, Steve Heapy, insisted confusion over foreign holidays was worsened by the fact Foreign Office advice was not always aligned with the traffic light system.
He told the Guardian: To have two separate lists is utterly confusing … we have to make decisions based on conflicting information.’
EasyJet boss Johan Lundgren said: ‘Customers want to travel this summer – they value their holidays, want to reunite with loved ones after many months of separation and develop their businesses so I urge the Government to increase the Green list and let the UK take off once again.’
Andrew Flintham, Managing Director for TUI UK and Ireland, said holidays to destinations including Spain, Greece, some Caribbean islands and the US should now be possible due to the worldwide vaccination effort.
He added: ‘We’re already seeing other European markets open up to travel and welcome back customers, so now is the time for the UK to do the same. We’re a nation of travellers, so it’s time to stop limiting our ability to travel where it’s safe to do so.
‘Whilst we’ve offered outstanding flexibility for customers this summer, what customers really want is to be able to take the holiday they’ve booked and look forward to.’
Charlie Cornish, CEO of Manchester Airports Group, owner of Stansted, Manchester and East Midlands airports, said: ‘The Government is holding back international travel despite clear evidence that more countries should be on the green list.
‘The UK’s traffic light system ignores the benefits of our world-leading vaccination programme, which was meant to give Britain a head start and let people visit family and go on holiday this summer. Instead, the Government is actively telling people not to travel to amber list countries despite creating a system that makes it safe for them to do so.
‘At the same time, we are requiring millions of people with immunity from Covid-19 to pay for PCR tests to gather data on variants that other governments reliably collect already.
Some of the most popular holiday islands may be added to the quarantine-free ‘green’ list – even if their mainland is not, say ministers. Pictured: Santorini, Greece
The latest blow for British holidaymakers comes as travel bosses today slammed Downing Street’s ‘utterly confusing’ advice on foreign holidays and demanded the ‘green list’ is quickly expanded. Pictured: Mallorca, Spain
Mr Cornish added: ‘With so much at stake, the Government must work transparently and collaboratively with industry to create a simple, fair and sustainable system that will truly get Britain flying again.’
Tim Alderslade, CEO of Airlines UK, the industry body representing UK-registered carriers, said: ‘The UK will rapidly fall behind the rest of Europe unless it looks again at its overly cautious approach to international travel.
‘There is no reason why our green list can’t be expanded to include the US and the most popular European hotspots, or for the UK not to follow the EU’s lead in exempting vaccinated travellers from restrictions.
‘It is time to allow UK citizens to take advantage of the fantastic success of the vaccine rollout but at the moment our competitors are reacting faster to the improving health situation and will reap the rewards this summer.’
Mark Tanzer, CEO of Abta – The Travel Association, said: ‘It is illogical for the Government to not follow its own traffic light system – it makes no sense for Ministers to say people shouldn’t travel to amber countries when the Government’s own system allows people to do so in a risk-managed way.
‘Travel agents and tour operators, and their customers, need a clear and simple system to follow without contradictions otherwise our sector’s recovery will be unnecessarily slow and drawn out.’