Travel: UK urged to 'open up now' by Lord Karan Bilimoria
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From 4am on Sunday, quarantine rules for France will be lifted. And top summer destination Spain has been saved from the Government’s red list. The easing of Covid travel restrictions follows demands for greater simplicity. One Tory MP called the easing “very late”. Austria and Germany were moved called the easing “very late” for the peak season but Boris Johnson said the vaccine rollout was opening up travel. The Prime Minister, inset, added: “I know how important holidays are to people.
“People think about them, they save up for them, people yearn to go abroad this year. I totally get that. We’ve got to balance that against the need to protect our country.
“We’ve got a balanced policy, but clearly we have the benefit now of the double jab system that is enabling us to go to countries in the EU and to come from the countries in the EU without having to quarantine.”
The updated “traffic light” list is the final travel review of the school summer holiday period.
Ministers were under pressure to simplify restrictions after tourism chiefs warned the rules were too confusing for holidaymakers and were pushing businesses to the brink.
The recent “amber plus” category, which affected only France, saw travellers from there having to quarantine at home.
Ministers scrapped that status yesterday and regraded France as amber, meaning fully vaccinated holidaymakers only have to take Covid tests before and after their journey to the UK.
The green watchlist, which is intended to give travellers notice that a least-restricted destination may turn amber, remains.
Spain’s status as viewed by the UK Government had been in doubt after infection rates there caused concern but it stays classed as amber for now.
Ministers urged travellers to take a more sensitive PCR test instead of a lateral flow check for their mandatory pre-departure procedure, claiming it would help protect against a rise in the virus and variants there.
Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Romania and Norway were moved to the quarantine-free green tier.
In other changes, India, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates will drop down from red to amber. The UAE status change opens up travel to other long-haul amber and green destinations via transit airports in Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi.
But Mexico, Georgia plus the French islands of Reunion and Mayotte turn red.
The cost of quarantining in a state-selected hotel when arriving from red zone nations is to soar from £1,750 per person to £2,285 for a single adult from next Thursday.
Each adult sharing the room will be billed £1,430 – up from £650. Officials said that ensures taxpayers do not subsidise the cost.
Tory MP Henry Smith, whose Crawley constituency includes Gatwick Airport, said the correct decision had been made on France and the updated travel list is “going in the right direction”.
He added it was “very late in the day” for the summer season but said an increase in bookings was now likely as there was “growing confidence out there”.
Axel Hefer, boss of hotel website Trivago, said the change will likely mean a “significant” demand for last-minute breaks.
“Any simplification of the traffic light system can only be a good thing for consumers and the industry.
“Travellers are willing to wait to book, sometimes until the last minute, to ensure they can travel to their desired location and to understand the restrictions. We often see a significant boost in traffic searches from the UK looking to grab last-minute beach breaks.”
Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, said: “The extension of the green list is a positive step forward.
“This announcement will be a boost to our airports, their employees and the local economies who depend on aviation and just as importantly to those who have been prevented from visiting friends and relatives. Airports continue to face a long road to recovery with passenger numbers remaining at historically low levels which continue to lag behind our European competitors.”
Paul Charles, of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: “While there’s some welcome progress, the Government is still being too cautious at a time when they should be opening up travel faster to help the sector.
“The Government is also failing to address the hurdles putting off consumers from booking, namely not giving a week or more’s notice of a country being moved to amber or red and the high cost of onerous testing.”
Noel Josephides, director of industry affairs at the Association of Independent Travel Operators, said PCR tests for travellers from Spain would mean a big additional cost for a typical family of four.
“This is likely to adversely affect the flow of British travellers to Spain a great deal. Other measures are generally welcome – although most of the new green traffic light category is certainly not prime summer holiday territory…but it will take a good deal of time to boost consumer confidence.”
Johan Lundgren, chief executive of low-cost airline easyJet, said: “This provides some reassurance to consumers by keeping the status quo for key holiday destinations.
“But we remain disappointed at the double standards applied to travel versus the domestic economy.
“With infection rates remaining lower in much of Europe and the high vaccination levels in the UK, if not now it is hard to know when the time is for much of Europe to genuinely turn green.
“Government urgently needs to tackle this expensive testing regime which is adding unnecessary cost, especially for the fully vaccinated. No one wants to see flying become a preserve of the rich again – particularly when so many need to get away or reunite.”
The changes were made after analysis by the Joint Biosecurity Centre of risks abroad.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the changes “reopen a range of different holiday destinations across the globe…good news for both the sector and travelling public”.
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