UNITED KINGDOM: A proposal to create an “amber watchlist” of countries that are at risk of moving to “red” under the travel traffic light system radar has been abandoned after warnings that it might have forced a million tourists from England to cancel European breaks.
On Monday, the U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he wanted a “simple” and “balanced approach” to pandemic travel, as the government prepared to update its traffic-light ratings for travel this week.
Tory party (conservatives) MPs and travel industry figures earlier criticised the amber watchlist system, with media reports suggesting that it risked putting people off from travelling to popular destinations, including Spain and Italy as they could have ended up on the “watchlist.”
A complex pandemic travel
The traffic light system believed to be “confusing” has five different categories currently in effect: green, green watchlist, amber, amber-plus (a category that only affects France) and red.
In scrapping a proposed sixth category, Johnson suggested he wanted to keep things simple. Visitors to green-list countries returning to England do not have to isolate, while visitors to amber-list countries only have to isolate if they are not fully vaccinated.
The abandoned amber watchlist would have warned people when a destination was at risk of a sudden shift from amber to red – meaning that all travellers returning to the U.K. would have to compulsorily self-isolate for 10 days in a government-approved quarantine hotel and pay a ruinous cost of £1,750 each. The industry had warned that people with trips booked to “amber watch” countries may have cancelled their trip rather than risk the cost of hotel quarantine.
Attempt at resolutions
As opposition to the amber watchlist proposal gathered, Johnson said he wanted to prevent new coronavirus variants from entering the U.K., though he recognised the desire to go abroad.
“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 prime minister said the UK’s economy and society were about “the most open in Europe” but he said caution was still needed.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of the air travel industry body Airlines UK, in a statement urged the government to go further and include more countries on the green list, exempting them from quarantine requirements.
The Labour party (democratic) said scrapping the watchlist idea showed the Tories were “in total chaos” over their pandemic borders policy.