Politics

Amber watchlist plan ditched as Government U-turns over Covid travel curbs


Sweeping changes to the traffic light system for international travel have been binned at the eleventh hour amid a huge backlash from the aviation industry and Tory MPs

Spain, including the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands, is currently on the amber list
Spain, including the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands, is currently on the amber list

Boris Johnson’s plans for an ‘amber watchlist’ for international travel have been ditched in yet another Government U-turn on Covid curbs.

Government sources have confirmed to the Mirror that a rethink of the traffic light system has been been taken off the table.

Ministers were reportedly preparing to introduce the new sixth category – ‘amber watchlist’ – which would have signalled to holidaymakers when a country faced the threat of being shifted onto the red list at short notice.

But amid a huge backlash from the under-pressure travel industry and frustrated Tory backbenchers, the Government has binned the “confusing” idea at the eleventh hour.

Shadow Transport Secretary Jim McMahon said: “The Tories are in total chaos over their border policy, with days of confusion surrounding their plans for an amber watchlist.

“Not only have ministers failed to protect our borders, allowing Covid cases to rocket, time and time again they’ve refused to be straight with the public and give them the information they need to book travel with confidence, with clear information on the direction of travel of infections in each country.

“Ministers need to get a grip.”

Brits will get an update later this week on which countries are safe for travel in the latest review of the traffic light system.








Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced fury over plans to tweak the traffic light system
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Image:

PA)



Travellers from red list countries are forced to isolate for 10 days in a Government approved hotel – at a cost of £1,750 per person.

As well as the green, amber and red categories, there is already a green watchlist, with countries like Madeira and Croatia marked as at risk of shifting to amber.

France has been put into a separate category, dubbed “amber plus”, which means the exemption from quarantine for fully vaccinated travellers from amber list countries does not apply.

The decision, which has infuriated Paris, was taken due to the prevalence of Beta variant cases.

Huw Merriman, the Tory chairman of the Commons Transport Committee, led a furious backlash against the idea of a new amber watchlist.

He told the BBC: “An amber watchlist will be viewed as a massive red flag which is likely to cause bookings to those countries on that watchlist to collapse.

“In my view we don’t need any more uncertainty, complexity or anxiety for passengers or this beleaguered sector, it just needs clarity.”

Asked whether he personally backed a sixth category on a visit to Airbus in Stevenage, Mr Johnson said he supported a “user friendly” system.

He 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.

“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.”

This is a breaking story and will be updated.









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