France has been added to a brand-new amber-plus list. Meaning UK traveller’s would have to isolate on returning from the country. But what do you need to know about this new list.
The latest shock travel news has seen France move from amber to, a newly-created, amber-plus list in a move that has baffled the travel industry and upset many would-be European travellers.
But what is the new amber-plus list?
All COVID-19 restrictions have now been lifted in the UK, including the requirement for double-jabbed Brits to isolate when returning from amber list destinations, as part of the government’s so-called ‘Freedom Day’ plans.
However, on Friday, just hours before the new freedoms were about to commence, government officials announced the new amber list rules would not apply to passengers returning from France. Due to growing concern over the spread of the Beta variant in the country.
Now, as of 4am on Monday 19 July anyone returning to the UK from France will need to self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of whether they are fully vaccinated or not. They will also be required to take two PCR tests on days two and eight of their isolation. It’s not yet known whether travellers could cut short their quarantine via the test to release scheme.
The tougher measures have left the holiday plans of many in tatters and industry professionals incensed at the lack of clarity and notice of the changes.
This creation of an amber-plus list is only affecting France at the moment, seemingly drafting an in-between measure for countries at risk of moving from amber to red. However, many have been speculating whether other popular European holiday destinations like Spain, Portugal and Greece could soon move in a similar direction.
Variant of concern?
Currently, only France occupies a space on the unofficially-dubbed amber-plus list. The government noted the spread of the Beta variant in the country, which was first discovered in South Africa, as the reason for the concern over quarantine-free travel.
However, even this explanation has left many scratching their heads as, according to BBC data collected from GISAID, the Beta variant accounts for just 3.4% of the coronavirus cases in France.
Needless to say, this latest step has caused further dismay in the ranks of travel industry professionals. Professionals who were already running low on patience following the swiftness of the decision to shift Portugal from green to amber, leaving many holidaymakers needing to cut short or rearrange their breaks.
As well as the recent move to place the Balearic Islands on the amber list after just two weeks of being on the green watchlist.
What is the industry saying?
The travel sector has been one of the worst-hit areas of the UK’s economy through the pandemic. Now bosses have been loud in their criticism of these latest changes.
Chief executive of EasyJet, Johan Lundgren, accused the government of “making it up as they go along” when he spoke to Travel Weekly about the changes, before adding:
This move pulls the rug out from under our customers who have already travelled to France or who are booked to travel there and so it is them I feel for.
But it was Danny Callaghan, chief executive of the Latin American Travel Association, who was most scathing in his response, calling the move: “Yet another cowardly, late-Friday-night announcement” before going on to say:
This reveals what we had started to suspect – that the whole Global Travel Taskforce consultation was a meaningless way to keep the industry at bay for a few extra months.
Political journalists are clear that France was to be put on the red list, but the government was too scared to actually go through with that. This begs two questions: what exactly is the risk to the UK posed by arrivals from France; and if France does pose a significant risk, why is it not on the red list? It seems that politics and vanity trump safety every time, as we saw with the thousands of people allowed to-and-fro for the Euro matches at Wembley.
This level of hypocrisy, lack of clarity and integrity is what I would expect of a tin-pot dictatorship, not a country that is supposedly an exemplar for modern democracy. Utter disgrace.
So, what do the government say?
The travel sector has also criticised the government’s overall traffic light system stating that it is growing increasingly complicated for holidaymakers and agents alike to stay up-to-date with the changes.
Some have cited the fact that at the beginning of the system there were just three categories (red, amber & green). Whereas, there now appears to be five categories (red, amber, amber-plus, green watchlist & green).
However, Health Secretary, Sajid Javid said of the system and recent changes:
We have always been clear that we will not hesitate to take rapid action at our borders to stop the spread of Covid-19 and protect the gains made by our successful vaccination programme.
With restrictions lifting on Monday across the country, we will do everything we can to ensure international travel is conducted as safely as possible, and protect our borders from the threat of variants.
What to do?
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