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British Government Abandons ‘Amber Watchlist’ in Favour of Simple Travel Rules

British Government Abandons ‘Amber Watchlist’ in Favour of Simple Travel Rules

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has outright rejected a proposed ‘Amber Watchlist’ for countries that could be placed on the Red List from which travellers must quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10-days. Both Spain and Greece and even Italy were touted as contenders for the Amber Watchlist which could have seen as many as 1 million Brits scrambling to get home.

The Amber Watchlist was mooted ahead of an announcement on the latest travel rule changes which is expected later this week. There is already a defacto Amber Plus list that currently only applies to France and which requires all arrivals, whether fully vaccinated or not, to self-isolate for 10-days.

What are the current Traffic Light travel rules for travellers aged 18 and above?

All international travellers outside of the Common Travel Area must take a pre-departure test and complete a passenger locator form.

Green List: No need to quarantine but a PCR test on or before day two post-arrival is required.

Green Watchlist: Gives notice that a country with rising infection rates might be added to the Amber List. Ministers have ignored this step in the past and moved Green List countries straight to the Amber category.

Amber List: Travellers must self-isolate for 10-days and take two PCR tests – one on or before day two and the next on day eight. Travellers can reduce their isolation period by taking a third PCR test on day five.

Brits who were fully vaccinated in the UK can skip self-isolation and only need to take a PCR test on day two.

Fully vaccinated travellers from the USA or most European countries can also skip self-isolation and only need to take the day two PCR test.

Amber Plus: Currently only applies to France – all travellers, regardless of vaccination status, must self-isolate for 10-days and must take a PCR test on day two and day eight.

Red List: All travellers, regardless of vaccination status, must quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10-days and take a PCR test on day two and day eight. Travellers must pay £1,750 to stay in managed hotel quarantine.

Faced with growing criticism from the travel industry and backbench lawmakers, Boris Johnson dismissed the Amber Watchlist and instead promised to overhaul the current travel restrictions with a set of simple and easy to understand rules.

In recent days, Johnson has been pressured by Finance Minister Rishi Sunak to lift the majority of travel restrictions in order to reinvigorate the travel and aviation industries. The Unite union warned on Monday that there could be mass job losses when a wage support scheme ends next month unless sector-specific financial help is forthcoming.

Johnson is said to be eager to get all sectors of the economy back up and running but remains concerned about the risk of new COVID-19 variants being imported from abroad.

“I understand how much people plan, prepare for the summer holidays, but we’ve also got to remember that it’s still a dangerous virus and that we must try and stop variants coming in,” Johnson said on Monday.

During a visit to Stonehenge, Johnson said he wanted to make the travel rules “as simple and as user-friendly for people as possible.” And while he acknowledged that along with many others, he was “anxious” about variants being imported, he saw vaccination as the key to reopening travel.

On Monday, a rule change came into effect that allows double jabbed travellers from the United States and Europe (with the exception of France) to come to the UK without needing to self-isolate for 10-days. The exemption is likely to be widened to other countries soon.

After the next review of travel rules, more countries are also expected to be added to the Green List and there’s a possibility that travellers will be able to transit through Red List countries (such as Dubai) without needing to quarantine in a hotel on arrival in England.

Ministers may also announce new rules for British expats that have been fully vaccinated in another country, that would allow them to return without needing to self-isolate.

The body that represents airlines including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and easyJet wrote to the government on Monday warning that current travel rules were decimating consumer confidence.

Airlines UK said that the Green List should become the “default” for most of the world, while expensive PCR testing rules were effectively acting as an extra £100 tax on top of flights.

“We have seen no evidence that this regime is necessary for fully vaccinated travellers or those from Green countries, or that effective, cheaper rapid tests cannot be used from higher-risk destinations,” the letter sent to transport secretary Grant Shapps said.

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