Holidays 2021: No plans for amber watchlist as PM pledges 'user friendly' travel rules

ITV News Political Editor Carl Dinnen reports on the latest Covid travel rules

Number 10 has confirmed there are no plans for an amber travel watchlist for foreign holiday destinations at risk of being downgraded to red.

It was previously suggested that countries on the proposed watchlist- which included Italy and Spain- would have been at risk of joining the red list at short notice.

Boris Johnson had earlier promised a "simple and user-friendly" system before Downing Street said no new categories would be added to the traffic light system.

It comes amid concerns about the complicated traffic light system.

When asked about the system during a visit to Airbus in Stevenage on Monday afternoon, the PM said: "I understand that people care very much about their holidays, people want to go abroad, I understand how much people plan, prepare, for the summer holidays."

Boris Johnson: 'We have to have a balanced approach'

"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."

He added: "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."

Countries on the amber watchlist, which could reportedly contain Italy and Spain if introduced this week, would be at risk of joining the red list at short notice.

Critics said it would "complicate the traffic light system", with supporters claiming it would help travellers plan holidays.

Labour says "the government should be setting out the data on which they're making their decisions" so that people can properly plan their trips.

What forced a change on the amber watchlist? ITV News Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen explains

Currently, fully vaccinated UK travellers and children under 18 arriving back in the UK from amber list countries do not have to quarantine.

But if countries are moved to the red list, holidaymakers must enter a quarantine hotel at a cost of £1,750 for solo travellers.

"Holidaymakers should be able to see that evidence [on traffic light changes] for themselves," said Labour Party chair Anneliese Dodds.

"It just doesn't make sense for government not to be providing that country by country data".

She added: "All the government is doing really is complicating this for holidaymakers, reducing trust in the system - they should be trying to make it as simple and transparent as possible."

"Instead, the Conservatives just seem to be arguing amongst themselves, yet another summer of chaos from the Conservatives."

In addition to the green, amber and red list rules, people arriving from the United States and most European Union countries do not have to quarantine if they have been double vaccinated against Covid-19. The rule came into effect at 4am on Monday.

France is in the amber-plus category, which means arrivals will still be subject to quarantine rules due to a rise in cases of the Beta variant.

There is also a green watchlist to alert holidaymakers that certain destinations could be relegated to the amber list. All travellers arriving from green list countries do not have to self-isolate, regardless of whether they have been double-jabbed.

Minister Matt Warman had earlier told ITV News an amber watchlist would be another way of providing holidaymakers with additional travel information.

Minister says amber watchlist is 'compassionate, sensible approach'...

"What we're trying to do is provide people with the information to make those bookings with confidence.

"Giving people a sense of which direction a country may or may not be heading in, I think, is an extra piece of information that allows people to make their own decisions with as much as their own data as possible.

"That seems to me to be the compassionate, sensible approach but it's also I think really important that people make their own judgements."

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, is one of those calling for the government not to create an amber watchlist.

He said: “There’s no need for an amber watchlist, which would complicate the traffic light system even more.

“Just create a simple go and no-go list, as Americans have, enabling the fully-jabbed to travel at will. It’s not rocket science.”

According to the Telegraph, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is against the idea of an amber watchlist and wants to see travel opened up further.

The Labour Party has accused the government of being “in chaos over their border policy” following reports that Rishi Sunak has written to Boris Johnson to call for travel restrictions to be eased.

Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said it showed the two most senior figures in government were “in open disagreement” over the travel regulations.

Ministers will meet on Thursday to decide the travel rules for most of August.

Green and amber list travel: What you need to know

What does it mean when a country is on the green list?

It's important to note that just because a country is on the UK's green list, it doesn't necessarily mean the country is accepting UK citizens - Australia being one example - so check with the relevant country's government website for their latest rules on tourist arrivals.

People who are travelling to countries on the green list will need to take a Covid test up to 72 hours before they return to the UK and a single PCR test on or before day two of their arrival into the UK - but you do not need to quarantine unless the test result is positive.Children aged four and under are exempt from the test.

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What countries are on the green list?

From 4am on Monday 30 August, the Azores, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Liechtenstein, Lithuania and Switzerland will be added to the green list. These are the other countries already on the list:

  • Australia

  • Austria

  • Brunei

  • Bulgaria,

  • Caribbean Islands (Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, British Indian Ocean Territory, Barbados, Dominica, Granada, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Turks and Caicos Islands)

  • Croatia

  • Falkland Islands

  • Faroe Islands

  • Germany

  • Gibraltar

  • Hong Kong

  • Iceland

  • Israel and Jerusalem

  • Latvia

  • Malta

  • Madeira

  • New Zealand

  • Norway

  • Romania

  • Singapore

  • Slovakia

  • Slovenia

  • South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands

  • St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha

  • Taiwan

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What countries are on the amber list?

No countries are being added to the amber list as part of the traffic light list changes coming into effect on Monday 30 August.There are currently more than 130 other countries on the amber list, including popular holiday destinations such as Spain, Portugal and Italy. The full list of amber list countries can be found on the UK government website.

What does it mean when a country is on the amber list?

If you're over 18 and not had two Covid vaccinations, on arrival in the UK from amber list countries you need to:

  • take a Covid test up to 72 hours before you return to the UK

  • quarantine for 10 days

  • take a test on or before day 2 and on or after day 8 after arriving in the UK.

However, if you've been fully vaccinated in the UK or under 18, you don't need to quarantine or take a day 8 test after you get back, but you still need to take a test on or before day 2 after arriving. You must have had your final dose of the vaccine at least 14 whole days before the date you arrive in England to be considered as fully vaccinated under the amber list rules.

Separate to these rules for UK citizens, since 2 August people fully vaccinated in the USA or most European countries will not need to quarantine if they have been in an amber list country in the 10 days before arriving. They will still need to take a test on or before day 2 after arriving.

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Analysts believe Spain could be the next country to move to the amber-plus category, while France could be promoted to amber.

Downing Street sources said it was too early to speculate on what changes might be made and said the decision to allow fully-vaccinated travellers from the US and EU shows the prime minister wants to loosen restrictions.

The Department for Transport said it would not comment on “speculation” when asked about an amber watchlist.

A spokesperson said the traffic light system was “kept under regular review” and “based on the latest risk assessment from the Joint Biosecurity Centre”.

Covid-19 vaccine doses in the UK Credit: PA Graphics

The debate over travel rules come as the UK plans to roll out third booster jabs as early as September 6 to those who were vaccinated early this year - mainly people in older age groups and the clinically vulnerable.

The government said more details would be announced in “due course”.

Ministers are understood to be waiting for results from the Cov-Boost trial to see which vaccines should be used.