Covid: Pressure mounts for PM to ease travel rules as only 'one in 200' amber list travellers tests positive for virus

Tourists sunbathe on the beach at the Spanish Balearic Island of Mallorca, Spain. Credit: AP

The UK government is under intense pressure to ease Covid travel restrictions on overseas holidays as figures reveal there is a low number of infections for those returning from the amber list countries.

Fewer than one in 200 travellers from amber list countries are testing positive for coronavirus on their return, data from Test and Trace shows.

In total, 89 of 23,465 travellers who arrived in the UK from an amber list country between 20 May and 9 June tested positive for the virus, a rate of around 0.4%, The Times has reported.

There were no positive cases brought into the UK from 151 of the 167 amber list nations between 20 May and 9 June.

Portugal was the only viable major tourist destination on the green list Credit: Nick Ansell/PA

Figures from NHS Test and Trace also reveal no "variants of concern" were reported in any passenger returning from an amber list destination.

However, the government has warned not all of the results had yet been sequenced - which means variants could be detected in the passengers' swabs at any time.

Listen to our coronavirus podcast:

The traffic light system was introduced in May in order to reopen international travel, with the UK classifying countries as red, amber or green with accompanying restrictions of varying severity for returning travellers.

What are the rules for people returning from each category?

  • Green: There is no need to self-isolate. Take a pre-departure test and a PCR test on day two of your arrival in the UK.

  • Amber: Self-isolate for 10 days, unless you receive a negative result from a test taken at least five days after arrival. Take a pre-departure test, and PCR tests on day two and day eight of your arrival in the UK.

  • Red: Spend 10 days in a quarantine hotel. Take a pre-departure test, and PCR tests on day two and day eight of your arrival in the UK.

The government said people should only be going on holiday to green list countries, but only 11 destinations remain on the list, after Portugal moved to the amber list earlier this month.

Despite the low number of infections from amber list countries, Boris Johnson has played down suggestions restrictions on foreign travel could be lifted because of rising rates of vaccination against Covid-19.

Speaking during a visit to a laboratory in Hertfordshire, the prime minister said: "I want to stress that this is going to be - whatever happens - a difficult year for travel."

PM warns of a 'difficult year for travel' amid calls to use vaccination programme to end quarantines

Mr Johnson added: "There will be hassle, there will be delays, I am afraid, because the priority has got to be to keep the country safe and stop the virus coming back in."

He did say it was "very important we look at the opportunities for all of us over the coming months from two jabs" after suggestions quarantine periods could be shortened or removed for those fully vaccinated against the virus.

Meanwhile, Sir Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs, said: "It’s time British people were able to reap the benefits of the vaccines and for us to get the travel industry moving."

Stay up to date with the changing travel situation in the UK and abroad with news, information and advice at