Politics

COVID-19: No prospect of amber travel watchlist being introduced this week, Sky News understands

There is no prospect of an amber watchlist being introduced at the latest travel review this week, Sky News understands.

Government sources have confirmed that Boris Johnson has rejected the idea in the wake of a backlash.

It comes after the prime minister said he wanted a “simple” and “user-friendly” system for travellers while at the same time stopping the importation of new variants of COVID-19.

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‘We have to have a balanced approach’

“I understand how much people plan, prepare, for the summer holidays,” Mr Johnson said earlier on Monday.

“But we have also got to remember this is still a dangerous virus and we must try and stop variants coming in, must stop importing variants from abroad, so we have to have a balanced approach.

“What I want to see is something that is as simple and as user-friendly for people as possible.”

The PM said that because of the risk of importing new variants of the virus, there was a balance to be struck when it comes to travel.

“We also have to recognise that people want, badly, to go on their summer holidays, we need to get the travel industry moving again, we need to get our city centres open again and so we want an approach that is as simple as we can possibly make it,” he said.

The government is expected to announce changes to the traffic light system this week.

There had been speculation that a new amber watchlist, made up of destinations in danger of moving to the red list with little warning, could be included.

However the suggestion sparked opposition from the travel industry and Conservative MPs, with reports of cabinet ministers being divided on the idea.

Given that travellers entering the UK from red list nations have to pay £1,750 to quarantine for 10 days, critics expressed fears that people would cancel trips to any amber watchlist destinations in order to avoid the prospect of being hit with a hefty isolation bill.

Spain was understood to be one of the countries being considered for the amber watchlist, which could have caused problems for up to a million British tourists currently on holiday there.

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‘Keep it simple,’ Heathrow boss urges government

There were also concerns that Greece and Italy could have followed.

Labour’s shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said the government was in “total chaos over its border policy”.

“Not only have ministers failed to protect our borders, allowing the Delta variant to reach the UK in such force, but time and time again they’ve refused to be straight with the public and industry to provide them with the information they need to build confidence, with clear information on the direction of travel of infections in each country,” he said.

“Ministers need to get a grip and set out a proper strategy, provide full data and progress work with global partners on international vaccine passports so travellers and the industry can have the maximum clarity, instead of reckless U-turns and confusion.”

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‘I haven’t seen my family for 21 months’

Speaking to Sky News earlier on Monday, a minister said a travel watchlist would provide people with information to make “informed decisions”.

“People do have to make common sense judgements and that may involve taking into consideration the fact that a country’s rates may indeed be getting worse,” Matt Warman, minister for digital infrastructure, said.

“The most important thing that the government can do is make sure that people have as much information as they possibly can; that they have information about which direction a foreign country might be going in so that they don’t inadvertently find themselves having to quarantine when they get back.”

The latest developments come after an exemption from isolation for fully-vaccinated travellers from the US and EU arriving into England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland came into force.


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