The United Kingdom has seemingly got on top of the Coronavirus pandemic. After a speedy vaccine roll out we can finally sit inside to eat and drink, go the cinema and gamble at the casino. The end of all social distancing measures are scheduled for the summer solstice and life can get back to relative normality after over a year of restrictions.
Unfortunately the majority of the world is behind the UK in their inoculation programmes and many still have high levels of the virus prevalent. The omnipresent threat of ‘foreign’ virus strains, that may be resistant to the vaccine, means that while domestic hospitality and tourism sectors open up, the same cannot be said for foreign tourism.
Due to the wide variation in global rates of corona-virus infections the UK government recently introduced a ‘traffic light’ system to allow leisure travel to some countries where infection rates are lower. The travel industry was hopeful rather than expectant this would be the springboard to rivitalising a sector decimated by the pandemic. However just 12 countries and territories have been added to the green list. Instead of the USA and the Maldives we got The Falklands and Brunei. The only easily accessible tourist destinations on the list were Portugal and Israel, with the latter descending into war over the last few weeks. For Green List countries there is still testing required (see below) but the lack of quarantine at either end has encouraged people to book. Portugal in particular has seen a huge upswing in bookings. Please note even if a country is on the Green or Amber list it does not mean those countries governments are allowing tourists in. New Zealand and Australia sit squarely in the Amber column but entry for leisure purposes is still strictly banned. For Red List countries leisure travel is illegal and there is an expensive hotel quarantine required upon return to the UK.
The majority of countries sit in the Amber List and this is where things get more complicated. The various governmental factions seem divided on whether leisure travel is permitted, with conflicting statements being made. At Prime Minister’s Questions on the 19th May Boris Johnson advised against travel for ‘non-essential’ reasons, again quite ambiguous language. Who is to say travelling to Crete to sit on the beach is not essential for mental health reasons. Without wanting to go too far into a political debate it seems the UK government have deliberately made the traffic light system more complicated than necessary, with different ministers contradicting each others and statements being leaked about 6 hour queues at immigration, designed to dissuade people from travelling. As an example the Department for Transport (DfT) headed by Grant Shapps, is not aligned with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice when it comes to travel to Amber List countries This is crucial as a good travel insurer will cover you for travelling to a country so long as it is not against FCO advice. The main difference between the Green and Amber lists is the quarantine at home upon return and an additional test. For many these requirements may not be a huge hurdle. This purported open up to travel is in name only, the confusion sowed by the government has dissuaded many to wait until things are clearer before committing to a foreign holiday.
The next update to the traffic light list is due at the start of June, I am not hopeful there will be many additions to the Green List or further clarity from our elected leadership. The Global Travel Taskforce have a vested interest in stringing out the protracted open up of foreign travel of course, once things are fully open they may find themselves looking for another job!
Disclaimer – All information in the above article was accurate at time of publishing (20th May 2021). Due to the quick changing nature of official advice please check http://www.GOV.UK website for current information if you plan to travel.