travel quarantine

More than 40 Countries Could Be Removed from ‘Red List’ This Week

The Prime Minister is reportedly planning to remove up to 45 countries from the ‘Red List’ – including Mexico, Thailand and Brazil – this week, in time for the October half term. This move comes as the Government finally says it doesn’t want its overseas travel policy to be “unnecessarily restricted”. The Sunday Telegraph has the story.

The Telegraph understands that the 54 countries on the Government’s Red List will be slashed to as few as nine this week – with South Africa, Brazil and Mexico all expected to be opened up to quarantine-free travel in time for the October half-term break.

Cape Verde and Indonesia are also due to be struck off the Red List – which requires travellers to quarantine in designated hotels. 

Thailand could also become a quarantine-free destination, but was said to be a “more marginal call”.

The changes, which will allow fully vaccinated travellers to visit each of the countries without having to self-isolate on their return, are expected to be announced on Thursday following a review of the current list.

The move would lead to a spike in bookings by business travellers and holidaymakers, as it significantly opens up the number of destinations offering winter sun.

The planned easing of restrictions marks a dramatic shift in the Government’s approach to foreign travel following months of protests by industry bodies and Conservative backbenchers over the restrictions. 

In a particularly ferocious attack, former Prime Minister Theresa May warned in the summer that Britain was “falling behind the rest of Europe in our decisions to open up”.

Covid hospitalisation rates have confounded modelling which suggested that daily admissions could number 7,000 this month, when in fact they appear to have plateaued at 600.

The move comes as Mr. Johnson prepares to reboot the Conservatives’ domestic agenda in the wake of the devastating impact of Covid and the Government’s restrictions. …

A Whitehall source said: “We are expecting sharp reductions in the Red List. It could be as few as nine countries left on the list.”

The source said that ministers still wanted to keep restrictions in place to guard against Covid variants, but that the Government wanted to avoid a travel policy that “is unnecessarily restricted”.  

“Targeted quarantine will remain, but in fewer places,” the source said. A second source confirmed that the red list was due to be cut back “substantially”.

Worth reading in full.

More than 20 Countries Could Be Moved from the ‘Red List’ to the ‘Green List’ This Week

A good number of countries, including Egypt, Argentina and Turkey, could be moved from the ‘Red’ to the ‘Green List’ later this week in the latest travel review. But for unvaccinated Brits, it is possible this classification could soon become obsolete given that a new travel system is being cooked up based purely on vaccination status. MailOnline has the story.

The Government is expected to announce changes to the U.K. ‘traffic light’ system this Thursday in the latest review, amid reports the regime could be scrapped altogether by next month.

Paul Charles, CEO of the PC Agency travel consultancy, told MailOnline: “With no new Variants of Concern since early May, and with the U.K. having higher levels of Delta infection than most other countries, there is no reason to keep so many countries on the Red List. 

“It can be sharply reduced in size to help Global Britain, as well as the travel sector, recover strongly. There is no scientific basis anymore on which to prevent travel and enforce hotel quarantine from a vast swathe of the existing list.”

Ministers introduced new rules for travellers into Britain this year to slow the spread of the virus and stop new variants from abroad arriving in the country and causing havoc.

People coming from Red List countries have to quarantine in state-approved hotels for 10 days at a cost of £2,285 and take three tests – one before the return and two on days two and eight after arrival.

Those who are unjabbed coming from ‘Amber List’ destinations are forced to self-isolate for 10 days at home and take three tests. However, the double-jabbed only have to take two tests.

People coming from Green List countries don’t have to quarantine and have to provide evidence of two negative Covid tests – one before returning to the U.K. and one on day two.

However, Whitehall officials are said to be developing a new system based on Covid vaccination status rather than the prevalence of the virus in other countries…

This means that Amber and Green destinations could be removed, although the Red List will remain in place.

Worth reading in full.

Nearly a Third of Arrivals between March and May Suspected of Having Broken Quarantine Rules

Close to a third of people arriving in England and Northern Ireland between the months March and May are believed to have broken quarantine rules, but the Government can’t say exactly how many cases have been proved. BBC News has the story.

More than 300,000 cases were passed to investigators between March and May, according to figures seen by the BBC.

The Government was not able to say how many of these were found to have broken the rules or could not be traced. 

The Home Office has said it aims to pay home visits to all travellers suspected of not following the rules. …

From March 17th to May 31st more than a million people arrived in England and Northern Ireland from ‘Amber List’ countries. 

Figures for this period obtained under Freedom of Information laws show a total of 301,076 cases were referred to investigators for checks on whether they were self-isolating.

During this time, the highly contagious Delta variant of coronavirus – first detected in India – was spreading rapidly through the country.

Call handlers employed by the Department of Health and Social Care were tasked with contacting arrivals to check they were obeying the self-isolation and testing rules. 

Cases where the contact ended the call, refused to co-operate, indicated they would break the quarantine or testing rules, or could not be contacted after three attempts were referred to investigators at the Border Force Criminal Justice Unit and the police. 

Officers would then attempt to visit the contact at home to check they were following the rules. 

After April 26th, the Home Office hired private contractor Mitie to carry out home visits to international travellers required to isolate, from contacts supplied by NHS Test and Trace.

“We visit over 99% of the cases referred to this service by NHS Test and Trace,” a Government spokesman said. …

Lucy Moreton, of the Immigration Services Union, said the quarantine system “very much relied on the honesty of people to do the right thing, rather than any type of meaningful enforcement”.

Worth reading in full.

Handful of Countries Added to the Travel ‘Green List’

The Government’s ‘traffic light’ travel lists have been updated again, with just seven countries set to join the ‘Green List’. But Canada, which is one of these seven countries, currently has a ban on Britons travelling over anyway. BBC News has the story.

Canada and Denmark are among seven countries moving to the Green List in the latest changes to Covid restrictions.

Thailand and Montenegro are being added to the U.K. Government’s ‘Red List’ – meaning they are considered to be among the highest-risk destinations.

Finland, the Azores, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Lithuania are also moving to the Green List.

The changes will come into force at 4am on Monday.

Travellers coming from Green List countries do not have to quarantine when they come back to the U.K. – whether or not they have had two doses of a coronavirus vaccine. They still have to be tested before leaving the U.K. however and upon their return, and fill in a passenger location form. 

But while Canada is on the Green List, it currently has a ban on British nationals entering the country. 

Only U.K. or Irish nationals, or U.K. residents, are allowed in to the U.K. if they have been to Red List countries. They then have to pay to self-isolate in a Government-approved quarantine hotel. [Good luck to them!] …

Airlines U.K., which represents U.K.-registered carriers, said the “small number of green destinations” was making international travel “more expensive, burdensome and uncertain compared to other countries”. …

Charlie Cornish, Chief Executive of Manchester Airports Group which operates Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands airports, said the changes to the travel traffic light system will make “little difference” to the recovery of the travel industry and called on the Government to “overhaul” it.

Worth reading in full.

English Rules on International Travel Have Changed 50 Times Since the First Lockdown, Analysis Shows

Feel confused about the rules on international travel? No wonder: analysis by PA news agency shows that, in England alone, they have been changed 50 times since the first lockdown. And next week, the Government will change them again! Sky News has the story.

The Green, Amber, and Red travel lists have been updated every three weeks since they were introduced in May with the list of quarantine-free travel corridors changing nearly every week during its existence between July 2020 and January 2021.

Many holidaymakers have been forced to cut trips short and rush home before tougher rules for arrivals from their destination were introduced, including Transport Secretary Grant Shapps who was caught out when Spain was removed from the travel corridors list after being on it for just 16 days.

The travel industry has expressed dismay at the “constant rollercoaster” of alteration and has called for regulations to be made simpler.

Chief Executive of travel trade association ABTA, Mark Tanzer, said fears about the status of a destination being changed are “reducing the public’s confidence about taking an overseas break” and urged the Government to be “much clearer about the data and rationale” behind its decisions. …

Johan Lundgren, the Chief Executive of easyJet, said: “It’s no wonder that consumers in the U.K. are confused.”

“Now is the time for the Government to simplify the rules around travel, make Green truly Green and restriction-free, remove expensive and unnecessary testing requirements for the fully vaccinated travelling from Amber countries, and put an end to this constant rollercoaster of changes,” he added. …

The next update to the traffic light lists is due next week.

Worth reading in full.

Man Taking Legal Action Over Prison-Like Conditions at Government-Approved Quarantine Hotel

A man from Southampton is taking legal action over the prison-like conditions at a quarantine hotel which he says left him “traumatised” and suffering from depression. He was forced to stay at a Government-approved hotel for ten days (costing him £1,750) after visiting a sick relative in India, which was on the Red List at the time, and claims to have been treated like a “Covid prisoner”. BBC News has the story.

Pritheepal Singh… stayed at Park Plaza Waterloo, London, after visiting a sick relative in India.

He said the experience was like prison, with restricted exercise and food that was inappropriate for his religion.

The Department of Health and Social Care said its “robust border regime” protected the U.K. from Covid.

The hotel said it did its best to make guests feel welcome.

Mr Singh said his stay left him “traumatised” and suffering from depression.

He said: “It was pure fear. I had to go and speak to my doctors. I couldn’t sleep at night.

“I didn’t know that I was going to be treated like a Covid prisoner. It is despicable behaviour – just not acceptable.”

He said security guards stayed by his room to stop him leaving and allocated restricted fresh air breaks on the hotel roof.

Mr Singh added that he was served halal meat, which was not appropriate for his religion. …

On August 12th, the Government raised the price of hotel quarantine per adult from £1,750 to £2,285.

He isn’t the first to complain of poor conditions at a quarantine hotel. Earlier this month, one Brit staying in a Heathrow hotel said he had to move room twice due to a rodent infestation.

The BBC News report is worth reading in full.

Brit Complains of Rodent Infestation at £1,750 Quarantine Hotel

There have been numerous reports of “prison-like” conditions at quarantine hotels, where travellers from Red List countries must self-isolate for 10 days, costing them £1,750. Despite this, conditions appear to have reached a new low, with one Brit staying in a Heathrow hotel saying he has had to move room twice due to a rodent infestation. Sky News has the story.

Anthony, 25, who did not want to give a surname, said he has seen an animal in his room on two occasions.

He told Sky News: “It’s hell. It’s shocking. It’s a health & safety hazard… The hotel has to be shut down.”

Anthony is paying £1,750 to stay at Government-approved Mercure Heathrow Hotel on his return from a visit to Brazil, a Red List country.

He claims staff have apologised, offered him free beer, but no refund.

In a statement, Mercure Hotels said: “An external pest control professional has checked the hotel and concluded no evidence of pest activity. We take complaints such as this very seriously.” …

Anthony said: “There would have been rats wandering around when I was sleeping, crawling on tables & cutlery, sniffing cups, in the bin… Rats carry diseases.”

“At 1.30am I saw a rat come from behind the fridge into view,” he added.

“I talked to security. They moved me into a new room.”

As he changed room, he said another guest asked: “Have you got one in your room as well?”

Anthony said hotel staff have admitted those in other rooms have had similar problems with rodents. There is no cleaning service for the full ten-day stay due to Covid measures.

Worth reading in full.

Japan Names and Shames Quarantine Rule Breakers

Japanese officials have publicly named three nationals who broke travel quarantine rules and have threatened to do the same to others who do not self-isolate for two weeks after returning from abroad. The Guardian has the story.

The Health Ministry said the three Japanese nationals named had clearly acted to avoid contact with authorities after recently returning from abroad.

The announcement late on Monday, the first of its kind, sparked a flurry of speculation among Twitter users about the details of those identified, such as their jobs and locations.

Japan is asking all travellers from overseas, including its own citizens, to self-quarantine for two weeks, during which they are asked to use a location-tracking smartphone app and report on their health condition.

Japan last week expanded its Covid state of emergency to four more areas beyond Tokyo after record increases in infections while the capital hosts the Olympic Games. …

Emergency measures already in place in Tokyo and the southern island of Okinawa will also be extended until the end of August, after the Olympics and well into the Paralympics, which start on August 24th. …

Tokyo’s Governor, Yuriko Koike, has noted that people in their 30s or younger accounted for many recent cases and urged them to “share the sense of crisis” and follow basic measures such as mask wearing and avoiding having parties.

Worth reading in full.

Holidays Ruined for Millions of Brits if Spain and Greece are Forced on to “Amber Plus” List

Reports suggest that the Government is considering demoting both Spain and Greece to the “Amber Plus” List alongside France due to fears over Covid variants, a decision that could ruin the holiday plans of millions of Brits – and not for the first time. MailOnline has the story.

The list effectively strips back ‘Freedom Day’ rules, which allow [fully vaccinated] holidaymakers to return from “Amber List” countries without having to face a mandatory period of self-isolation.

But, just days before the new rules were to be announced, the Government threw tens of thousands of holidays into doubt by revealing that double-jabbed Britons returning from France would still have to quarantine.

Now Greece and Spain, both of which are currently on the Amber List, could follow France onto the so-called Amber Plus List.

But, according to figures released by Labour, that could leave an estimated 5,857,558 people facing the prospect of last-minute quarantine requirements – plunging the holidays into “chaos once more”. 

The Government introduced an exemption for the requirement to isolate at home for 10 days for fully-vaccinated holidaymakers returning from countries on the amber list.

But ministers removed the exemption for France amid concerns over the Beta variant, creating what critics call an Amber Plus designation on the traffic light system for foreign travel.

There has been speculation that Greece and Spain could face the same measures as France, though the Government has not confirmed this. …

The opposition estimated the number of people to have booked holidays to those three nations by looking at official data for past travel and adjusting for lower willingness to travel during the pandemic by comparing with surveys.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “The travel list allocations have not changed for Spain or Greece.

“We are closely monitoring the data and will take swift action on travel list allocations and international travel requirements should the data show that countries’ risk to England has changed.”

It comes as holidaymakers faced up to three-hour queues through passport control at Heathrow Airport yesterday after e-gates broke down and the ‘pingdemic’ left just one official at the desks, according to frustrated passengers.

Worth reading in full.

Airports Report Busiest Weekend Since Start of Pandemic – But Travel Industry Still Far Less Busy Than Normal

Airports and airlines say they are having the busiest weekend since the start of the pandemic, but continued restrictions on travel mean this summer season will once again be far from normal for the industry. Firms believe that the Government’s unpredictable approach to travel – best demonstrated when it threw Portugal on the “Amber List” with very little notice, ruining the holiday plans of thousands of Brits – has damaged confidence. BBC News has the story.

Heathrow Airport expects 60,000 passengers to depart daily, while Gatwick says it expects 250 flights a day – up from a low of just 15.

But the numbers are still far below pre-pandemic levels.

Spain is the top destination for U.K. travellers, followed by Greece.

After 18 months in which the travel industry has been devastated by the pandemic, companies including Easyjet, TUI and Jet2, as well as major airports, said they would have more passengers this weekend than at any time since the pandemic began.

Air travel companies said the decision to allow fully vaccinated travellers to visit amber list countries without quarantining on their return had encouraged people to consider more destinations.

Manchester Airport said it was “an encouraging but tentative step towards recovery”, but it said the Government’s “chaotic and unpredictable” approach to international travel had damaged confidence.

Easyjet suggested the vaccination programme had given the travel industry a boost, with many Britons saying they were much more likely to be willing to travel once they had been double-vaccinated and that travel had been a major motivation for getting jabbed for many of them.

At Gatwick on Friday, several passengers said they were travelling for the first time since the pandemic began.

Many were heading on beach holidays, while others were visiting family for the first time in many months. …

Laura, on her way to the 70th birthday party of a friend in Northern Ireland, said: “It’s just so exciting to get on an aeroplane again.”

But she said it was sad to see the airports still with several empty car parks and closed terminals.

Worth reading in full.