France joins amber list as part of modest reopening

The government has confirmed that arrivals from France to England will no longer need to quarantine if they are fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

The step aligns France with the rest of the amber list now that the proportion of beta variant cases has fallen in the country, officials explained.

The move is part of a wider reopening of international travel, with Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Romania and Norway all added to the green list.

A statement from the department of transport said the destinations had demonstrated they posed a low risk to UK public health.

India, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates will also be moved from the red to the amber list, as the situation in these countries improves.

Following an assessment of the latest data, Georgia, La Reunion, Mayotte and Mexico will be added to the red list.

These countries present a high public health risk to the UK from known variants of concern, known high-risk variants under investigation or as a result of very high in-country or territory prevalence of Covid-19, the statement added.

Arrivals from Spain and all its islands are advised to use a PCR test as their pre-departure test wherever possible, as a precaution against the increased prevalence of the virus and variants in the country.

UK clinicians and scientists will remain in close contact with their counterparts in Spain to keep abreast of the latest data and picture of cases in Spain.

The changes come into effect at 04:00 on Sunday in England.

Transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said: “We are committed to opening up international travel safely, taking advantage of the gains we have made through our successful vaccination programme, helping connect families, friends and businesses around the world.

“While we must continue to be cautious, these changes reopen a range of different holiday destinations across the globe, which is good news for both the sector and travelling public.”

Industry reaction

Mark Tanzer, chief executive of ABTA, broadly welcomed the latest news, but argued more was needed.

He said: “The confirmation that France joins popular holiday destinations such as Spain and Greece on the list of countries that fully vaccinated individuals and their families can travel to without the need to quarantine on return is positive, particularly as we are now in the critical school holiday season.

“However, the government is still failing to capitalise fully on the success of the vaccine rollout with a very cautious approach to the green list and failure to relax restrictions on travel, including requirements for multiple tests even when visiting low risk destinations.

“As a result, the UK is falling behind our European competitors and the opening up of international travel from the UK is progressing at a snail’s pace – making it extremely difficult for travel agents and tour operators to generate enough income to kickstart a recovery, which is desperately needed to protect jobs, businesses and livelihoods.”

He added: “We need to see a greater sense of urgency from this government to both get people travelling again and support the industry through this crisis.”

Virginia Messina, acting chief executive with the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), echoed the concerns.

She explained: “The entire UK tourism sector, the many thousands of British travellers already in France, and those with future plans, will be breathing a sigh of relief now that returning fully jabbed Brits will not need to quarantine, and that the confusing and disruptive amber plus list has been effectively abandoned.

“However, the requirement for fully-jabbed UK travellers to take expensive PCT tests will still deter many from travelling.

“We are disappointed that more destinations were not added to the green list.

“But the additions of India, Bahrain, Qatar, and in particular the UAE – a major winter sun destination – will provide a massive boost to tourism businesses over the coming months.

“Once again, we call on the US government to open its borders to fully vaccinated UK visitors, a move that would have a massive economic benefit both here in the UK and across the Atlantic.”

Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of the Advantage Travel Partnership was, however, more scathing in her assessment of the latest changes.

She said: “The latest traffic light review shows a true lack of ambition by the government in not opening the green list further.

“The summer has already been lost and any attempt to save summer is over.

“The removal of France from the newly created amber plus list is of course a positive step but arguably it should never have been put into its own special category in the first place.

“Moving the UAE and Qatar – both of which are key international airport hubs particularly important for business travel – added to the amber list is welcomed but it’s important to be mindful of all entry restrictions too.”

She added: “Travellers returning from Spain appear to be given a choice of either taking the more expensive PCR as opposed to the current antigen pre-departure tests seems somewhat bizarre.

“The cost of hotel quarantine will be increasing for those returning from red list countries however, for those who have no choice but to travel perhaps for overseas funerals, for example, are the ones who will continue to be penalised regardless of their vaccination status – let’s not forget that travel is more than just holidays.”

From August 12th, the cost for staying in a quarantine hotel will increase from £1,750 to £2,285 for a single adult, and from £650 to £1,430 for a second adult in a shared room.

Source : Breakingtravelnews