Covid travel: Vaccine passports to remain 'permanent fixture' of foreign holidays, Shapps warns

ITV News Consumer Editor Chris Choi reports on the travel changes to the international traffic light system

Vaccine passports will remain a "permanent" fixture of international travel for the "foreseeable future", the transport secretary has warned.

Under the current system, the vast majority of travellers out of the UK need to prove they've been fully vaccinated for coronavirus if they want to return without having to quarantine.

And dozens of countries around the world also require foreign tourists to have received both doses of a coronavirus vaccine in order to cross their borders quarantine-free.

"I do see this becoming a permanent, for the foreseeable future, fixture of international travel," Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told ITV News.

"I've chaired meetings with my transport equivalents [in other countries], when I speak to them it's quite clear that double vaccination will be a requirement, we're already seeing it in virtually every country in the world."

He added: "If you haven't got your vaccination yet, please get it, unless you're medically exempt, you will need it in order to be able to travel in the future."

He was speaking after announcing on Wednesday a range of changes to the UK's traffic light system that will remain unaltered for three weeks.

Quarantine requirements for returnees from France will be lifted for fully jabbed travellers from Sunday at 4am as it moves to the amber list - and seven countries in Europe will join the green list for unrestricted travel, regardless of their vaccination status.

He said this summer's strategy of reviewing the traffic light system every three weeks rather than weekly should give people the chance to go abroad.

He told ITV News: "My simple message is we want people to be able to go away, enjoy a well earned break and know that this is the system we have in place, bar any unforeseen circumstances, for the rest of August."

“We have certainly lived with coronavirus long enough to know that it can be unpredictable; however, we have also lived with it long enough to get the majority of the population vaccinated, other countries are doing the same thing," he told the BBC.

“That does mean that this summer we are able to set out a three-week programme rather than a one-week programme which was the situation last year.

“I hope people will be able to go away under this simplified system, enjoy their breaks and not be looking over their shoulders the whole time, and as long as they follow the processes then they can have a great time and I hope they are able to enjoy their holidays.”

Countries added to the green list are Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Romania and Norway.

Along with France, India, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have joined the amber list, allowing fully vaccinated returnees restriction-free travel.

But Georgia, Mexico, La Reunion and Mayotte were all added to the red list in order "to safeguard domestic vaccine rollout", the government said.

La Reunion and Mayotte were added to the red list due to the risk of high prevalence of the more dangerous Beta variant, which was first discovered in South Africa.

The variant is also causing ministers to be concerned about Spain and its islands.

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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Anyone returning from there is advised to take a PCR test as their pre-departure test so that more data can be collected on variants of concern.

The Prime Minister dodged a question about whether he would book a holiday to Spain at the moment.

Boris Johnson told reporters: "I think that people should, obviously, look at the guidance. We are trying to make it as simple as we can, we've lengthened the interval between the changes to the guidance.

"We want people to get away if they possibly can, we are just saying that obviously this year is going to be a bit trickier, we just ask for a bit of patience but we've got to balance the two objectives.

"We want people to be able to travel, we want the travel industry to get going again, we want to see tourists coming back to our country - a very, very important part of our economy - but you've got to balance that against the need to protect ourselves against the pandemic."

Mr Shapps said he "can never say there is a zero chance" travellers from Spain and other popular holiday destinations will not have to quarantine again in future.

Asked by Sky News whether Spain could return to the red list for travel destinations in future, he replied: "With coronavirus you can never say there is zero chance.

"But having said that, the levels of vaccination and what we now know about the virus and what our scientists have been able to work out in the last year means that people should be able to go away, enjoy their holidays without looking over their shoulders the whole time and as I say, the next set of changes are not for another three weeks."

Labour has attacked the government for having what it says is a confusing system for travel, saying it should be simplified further so amber is scrapped, leaving just the red and green categories.

Shadow communities and local government secretary Steve Reed said: "Labour is listening to the international travel sector that want greater consistency and clarity over what's going on.

"A lot of people don't really understand what amber means, the situation should be 'can I or can I not travel to that country', which implies red or green, stop or go.

"Amber is very confusing because people interpret it differently."

He added: "The government should be saying to people you can or you can't go to a particular country, publish all the data so the sector itself, the international travel sector, can plan with full knowledge of about what the level of risk really is."

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