Grant Shapps

Needing to Be Vaccinated Against Covid to Travel Abroad “A Reality in This New World”, Says Grant Shapps

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has doubled down on his claim that Brits must get vaccinated against Covid “if they want to travel internationally again”. On Thursday, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that needing proof of vaccination to travel abroad “is a reality… in this new world”.

He said that “double vaccination” will be “a feature for evermore”, but seemed to correct himself by following the words “double vaccination” with “full vaccination”. Is this a hint that the ability to travel abroad will, further down the line, be contingent on booster shots too? The Guardian has more.

Grant Shapps predicted people would be required to prove they had been fully vaccinated for some time to come, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It is a reality that in this new world, we’re living with coronavirus… I think double vaccination or full vaccination is going to be a feature for evermore, and probably all countries will require full vaccination for you to enter.”

He said in an ideal world ministers would not have to impose quarantine restrictions or demand people pay money for multiple, expensive tests, but said the current system was likely to remain in place after summer.

That was because the threat of vaccine escape – meaning a variant emerging that current vaccines are less effective against – was the big worry on ministers’ minds, Shapps said.

“It would be irresponsible for us not, therefore, to be testing people when they do travel before they leave and when they get back – that’s how you can guard against the next big variant that none of us know about yet,” he said.

“So I think we’ll have to settle down into knowing that this will happen, but as the world opens up and international rules are adopted for travel, which will certainly include full vaccination, I think things will will start to become more routine for people who travel.”

Shapps said quarantine restrictions did not block the importation of variants completely, but said slowing down their arrival was helpful. …

Shapps defended having singled out France as the only Amber List country where travellers still had to quarantine for up to 10 days regardless of whether they had been fully vaccinated, after the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, had suggested it was partly due to the number of cases of the Beta variant in Réunion, a French overseas territory, thousands of miles away from mainland France.

He said there were “very close links” between Réunion and France, meaning high levels of the Beta variant on the island in the Indian Ocean had spilled over into the mainland’s north, but that these had since “descended”.

Worth reading in full.

Brits Must Get Vaccinated ”If They Want to Travel Internationally Again”, Says Grant Shapps

Dominic Raab wasn’t kidding when he said vaccine passports are intended to “coax and cajole” people – especially young people – into getting vaccinated against Covid. This campaign has been upped again today, with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps warning that “if [people in their 20s] want to travel internationally again”, they must get ‘jabbed’. “It’s quite clear now,” he added. The Sun has the story.

The Transport Secretary told young people they should get double-jabbed to regain the freedom to cross borders. …

Mr Shapps said the U.K. is getting back to normal because “fortunately in this country we have very little vaccine hesitancy”.

He said a whopping 90% of Brits have now received a jab but conceded that take up has been lower amongst younger adults.

The Transport Secretary suggested that ministers are relying on the lure of foreign hols to persuade people in their 20s to get vaccinated.

He said: “They will need to get vaccinated if they want to travel internationally again. It’s quite clear now.”

Double-jabbed Brits returning from amber list countries – which includes almost all of Europe and the U.S. – now don’t need to isolate.

The new policy, which comes into force on Monday, will open up hassle-free hols to millions of Brits for the first time in two years.

A number of the popular countries with British tourists also now demand proof of vaccination to enter.

They include favourite destinations on the continent like Portugal, Malta, and France.

Meanwhile double-jabbed visitors to Spain and Greece are able to avoid the cost and uncertainty of needing to provide negative tests. …

Mr Shapps also predicted that having to be double-jabbed to return to the office will become the norm for some workers.

He said it would be a “good idea” for all Brits to get vaccinated before ending working from home.

The cabinet minister insisted there are no plans for the Government to make it compulsory but “some companies will require it”.

Worth reading in full.

Ibiza, Mallorca and Menorca Likely to Be Pushed Back Down to “Amber List”

Reports suggest that Spain’s Balearic islands are likely to be pushed back down to the “Amber List” from next Monday, just three weeks after they were added to the “Green List“.

When quarantine-free travel was confirmed for the Balearic islands and a handful of countries, we warned that their position on the “Green Watchlist” meant they were “at risk” of being demoted at any time. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed that such changes were likely to occur “with quite a lot of regularity“. But many are likely to have missed this message.

While a demotion to the Amber List will not greatly affect fully vaccinated Britons, who will be allowed to avoid self-isolation upon returning from an Amber country from July 19th (so long as they, and their children, aged five and over, test negative for Covid two days after returning), those returning from the country before Monday and those who have not been vaccinated will have to quarantine. As such, the holiday plans of many Brits still face being ruined.

Grant Shapps told BBC Breakfast that travel lists are reviewed every three weeks. He is quoted in the MailOnline:

I hope we have made very clear to everybody when booking trips at the moment there is always the chance that countries will move around.

Some countries may go to the “Red List”, some countries may go to the Green, but some may move the other way to the Amber List.

It is a fact of life that they will continue to move around as the virus continues to develop and change globally.

The Guardian has more.

Multiple sources told the Guardian that the switch, which will affect those heading home from Ibiza, Mallorca, Menorca and Formentera, is expected to be discussed by ministers on Wednesday afternoon and come into force from early next week.

There has been no official confirmation from the Government and last-minute decisions are sometimes made not to move countries up and down the traffic light system. …

Several countries are expected to be added to the Red List, meaning most travel from them will be banned, with the exception of arrivals of British citizens and nationals who will have to stay in a hotel for 10 days to avoid the importation of Covid variants.

Meanwhile, the Transport Secretary… has voiced concern over a report in the Telegraph that Britons who have had two AstraZeneca vaccines including one manufactured in India were being turned away from a flight from Manchester to Malta.

He said the jabs, produced at the Serum Institute of India and given to up to five million Britons, were no different from those produced in the U.K.

The numbers of the batches, which are not yet authorised by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and so do not qualify for the European Union’s digital vaccine passport scheme, appear on people’s vaccine card and are: 4120Z001, 4120Z002 and 4120Z003. …

The news came despite Boris Johnson saying he was “very confident” that the non-European approved vaccines would not cause problems for travellers.

The Guardian report is worth reading in full.

Countries Could Be Pushed Back onto the “Amber List” at Short Notice, Says Transport Secretary

Overseas travel appears to be just as difficult today as it was before the Government’s “Green List” was updated. That all but one of the new quarantine-free Green countries also feature on the “Green Watchlist” means they are “at risk” of being pushed back onto the “Amber List” at any time. One holiday company has already ruled out taking new bookings for July and August due to the uncertainty, and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps says that changes that occur “with quite a lot of regularity” will likely result in Green countries being demoted to Amber at short notice.

Appearing on Sky News this morning, Shapps dodged a question on whether or not he would book a foreign holiday for himself and his family given that the rules could be changed with very little notice, merely saying: “Sadly, I don’t think I’ve got time at the moment to take a holiday.”

The Guardian has more.

Grant Shapps warned anyone looking to travel abroad that the rules could change at short notice after Malta, Madeira and the Balearic islands, among others, were added to the list of countries from which travellers could return without having to quarantine.

But there was concern across the beleaguered travel sector, with one prominent figure accusing the Government of being “overly cautious”.

Shapps said: “People will have to come to their own decisions… If people are in a situation where, from next week, they wanted to get away then these are the places where you can go for the purposes of holiday, of course, being aware of all the caveats about the risk of things changing because… that happens with quite a lot of regularity.”

And he acknowledged that the ongoing pandemic meant the status of any country could change with no notice, with those on the “Green Watchlist” most likely to see harsher restrictions reimposed.

“Whoever is booking to go anywhere this summer, travel insurance, making sure your flights are changeable and making sure the accommodation is changeable – all those things are going to be very, very important this year. And I think people need to weigh up whether that is going to work for them or not,” he told Sky News…

The holiday company On the Beach said it would not be taking new bookings for July and August while so much uncertainty remained about countries on the watchlist.

Criticising ministers’ caution, the Airport Operators Association Chief Executive, Karen Dee, said: “Any extension of the Green List is welcome, however small, but we also have to be realistic: this is not yet the meaningful restart the aviation industry needs to be able to recover from the pandemic.” …

The lists are reviewed every three weeks, meaning that the next announcement will be on Thursday, July 15th.

Worth reading in full.

“Cautious” Resumption of International Travel as Only 12 Countries Are Added to “Green List”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced a “cautious” resumption of international travel for people in England from May 17th, with only 12 countries added to the Government’s “green list”. Last month, the Commons’ Transport Select Committee told the Government to publish this list by May 1st “at the latest”. Missing this deadline and leaving the announcement to the last minute has placed the (already struggling) transport industry under even more pressure.

Travellers to countries on the “green list” will not have to self-isolate upon their return to the U.K., but they will still have to fork out for PCR tests. The lowest cost of these tests is currently £60, adding almost £250 to the bill for a family of four. The countries and territories that will feature on the “green list” are:

  • Portugal
  • Israel
  • Singapore
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Brunei
  • Iceland
  • Gibraltar
  • Falkland Islands
  • Faroe Islands
  • South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
  • St Helena, Tristan de Cunha, Ascension Island

Turkey, the Maldives and Nepal have been added to the “red list“. Most European countries will feature on the “amber list”, including France, Spain, Greece and Croatia, meaning returning holidaymakers from those countries will have to self-isolate for at least five days. BBC News has a guide to the rules for travelling to countries on the different lists under the Government’s “traffic light” system.

Each of the three lists will be reviewed every three weeks after May 17th, but a number of countries are expected to stay off the “green list” for quite some time. Those already on the list could also end up being relegated to the amber or red list (assuming the Foreign Office hasn’t already refused to sanction travel to them). MailOnline has more.

[The Transport Secretary] warned that the [green list] countries would remain on a “watch list” and reserved the right to take them off again if there is a spike in Covid cases.

Fronting a Government press conference tonight, Mr Shapps said the plan was “necessarily cautious”, adding: “We must make sure that the countries we reconnect with are safe.” …

The Department for Transport also announced that from May 17th, people who have had both doses of a coronavirus vaccine will be able to use the NHS app to demonstrate their status.

People who do not have the app will be able to request an NHS letter from that date.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: “Frantic work is under way” to prepare the NHS mobile app which will be used as a vaccine passport when international travel returns, according to the Guardian – “but there are concerns it may not be ready in time”. No shit.

Stop Press 2: The Telegraph reports that returning holidaymakers could face queues of up to eight hours at airports.

Stop Press 3: MailOnline has upped the airport wait to 10 hours.

Why Has the NHS COVID-19 App Not Been Withdrawn?

What follows is a guest post by our technology correspondent.

Grant Schapps has been doing the media rounds today announcing that the NHS App is going to be the vehicle for vaccine passports, as I predicted on this site last month. That is going to cause huge problems. What we did not hear in those media interviews were any questions asking when its sister app, the NHS Test and Trace app, is going to be withdrawn. Why would they ask that? Well, because Matt Hancock said that is what he would do.

He could not have been clearer about it. In a letter to Harriet Harman’s Joint Committee on Human Rights on May 4th 2020 he wrote: “We intend to withdraw the app once the epidemic is over and it is no longer required.”

Is the pandemic over? Sarah Walker, Chief Investigator on the Office for National Statistics COVID-19 Infection Survey and Professor of Medical Statistics and Epidemiology at Oxford, says so. The Telegraph reported her saying: “Britain has moved from a pandemic to an endemic situation.” That was on April 23rd so plenty of time for Matt Hancock to have gone onto the app store and withdrawn his app.

Why the delay, Matt?

Grant Shapps Grilled by Julia Hartley-Brewer About Breaking Promise

In January, Grant Shapps said that if the Government did not fully unlock the country by early March after the most vulnerable groups were vaccinated, he would personally stand “on the barricades to get [all of] our freedoms back”. This date has passed, and restrictions are to remain in place for at least another three months, but Mr Shapps has lost his nerve.

He appeared on Julia Hartley-Brewer’s talkRADIO show this morning and was forced to listen to his promise to stand up to the Government two months ago if it continued to keep hold of Britons’ liberty. Mr Shapps claimed his promise had not been broken as we are now “starting to get our freedoms back”. He insisted that he “stand[s] by what we were saying before”, and then went on to contradict what he said before.

“If there hadn’t been a roadmap, if we were saying these cases are coming down but we’re not going to tell you how we’re going to get out of lockdown, then you and I would be out there.”

Julia was having none of it. She pointed out the fact that more of the over 70s have been vaccinated than we had expected, and at a quicker rate too. The effectiveness of a single dose of the vaccine is also greater than was originally presumed. So, she asked, “how could you possibly say you stand by what you said in January”? Mr Shapps’ response featured a lot of political talk – highlighting that “everybody… has contributed enormously to what has been a very difficult and painful year” – and a reutterance of the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown, which contradicts his previously stated position. His words were littered with the phrases “all being well” and “earliest dates”.

“The goalposts always move, don’t they. They’re going to keep moving forever.” Julia asked – in a question which rather answers itself – “do you understand why lots of people don’t trust the Government anymore?”

She seemed to give up completely when Mr Shapps said “I want you to have your civil liberties back, but I don’t want you to have them back in a way that kills other people”. Will this ever end?

Worth watching in full.