Which States Are Going to be on the UK Cabinet's Green Travel List?

Published April 18th, 2021 - 11:17 GMT
Tourist ride horse at Kirkjufell mountain landscape and waterfall in Iceland summer
Tourist ride horse at Kirkjufell mountain landscape and waterfall in Iceland summer (Shutterstock)
But it has turned out to be another milestone and I think that is the disappointment in it.

Only eight countries are set to feature on the Government's green travel list when the ban on overseas holidays lifts on May 17.

The British overseas territory of Gibraltar, along with Israel, Iceland and the US, will be among the nations and territories on the safe list, according to industry modelling reported by the Telegraph.

The research was carried out by Robert Boyle - the former strategy chief at British Airways.

It also reveals that nearly all of Europe is either on the Government's 'amber' list, where arrivals must go into self-isolation for ten days, or the red list - where arrivals have to quarantine in hotels at a cost of £1,750.   

According to the new research, the other countries which will reportedly be on the green list are Malta, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland.

Both Australia and New Zealand are currently closed to foreign arrivals while Iceland, Gibraltar, Israel, Malta and the United States all have heavy restrictions in place which ban holidaymakers travelling to the countries.

Ireland's Government advises against non-essential travel and arrivals must quarantine for 14 days, with 'limited exceptions' according to the Foreign Office. 

The research contradicts expectations from travel industry leaders that most of Europe would be on the Government's green list.  

The findings put Spain, Greece, Italy and Cyprus - all of which are hugely popular with British tourists - on amber because of their high coronavirus rates.

However, they could still turn green by June 28 - when the Government is set to carry out a review which could see nations moved between lists.

The report, which has reportedly been circulated among figures in the travel industry, ranks 52 countries based on a series of coronavirus-related statistics.

These include vaccination rates, infection rates and the extent of Covid-19 variants.  

The report is said to read: 'The surest case for green must be Gibraltar. It has essentially zero cases of any type and the population is fully vaccinated.

'Israel must be the next most likely. Again, it has vaccinated close to its entire population and case numbers are below even last year’s threshold.' 

The report contradicts previous expectations from industry leaders that most European countries would be in the Government's quarantine-free category. 

Johan Lundgren, easyJet's chief executive, said when asked if he expects destinations such as France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Croatia, Cyprus and Turkey to be on the 'green' list: 'Yes, by the time we open up for travel on May 17 and if the Government continues to have the plan in place on the two-test system.'  

Senior industry figures told MPs on the Transport Select Committee last week that the proposed traffic light system is 'too complex' while the overall strategy set out by ministers is 'very vague in many areas'.

They also warned border control at airports is already 'unable to cope' with Covid checks despite passenger numbers being massively reduced due to the lockdown ban on non-essential international travel. 

They warned there will need to be a 'dramatic improvement in border performance if we are to increase passenger numbers' when flights do resume. 

Meanwhile, British Airways boss Sean Doyle said the continued success of the vaccine rollout in the UK and the US could allow for a transatlantic travel corridor to be put in place.

Last month, experts said London and Washington were already discussing piloting a bilateral safe travel scheme between the two countries. 

Mr Doyle, who was speaking at an online industry event, also said the firm would be offering £60 PCR tests to its customers amid concerns the bill charged by some testing firms of approximately £120 could price many families out of a trip abroad. 

His comments reflect the announcement made by testing firm Randox who said last week it would be offering £60 tests through partnering airlines in a bid to aid the sector's recovery. 

The Government has yet to say which countries will make it onto the 'green list' for low risk travel but the Department for Transport has pledged to categorise countries 'in early May'.

Assessments will be based on a range of factors, including the proportion of a country's population that has been vaccinated, rates of infection, emerging new variants, and the country's access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing. 

The Government's Global Travel Taskforce published details on the proposed traffic light system earlier this month. 

It will see countries rated green, amber or red, with travel from 'green' countries quarantine-free but passengers will have to take one test after flying home, rather than the current two.  

Boris Johnson's lockdown exit roadmap states that international travel will resume no earlier than May 17. 

Travel bosses this week delivered a damning assessment of the taskforce's report as they claimed it lacked detail and argued the proposed timetable for the return of flights is too slow.  

Simon McNamara, the UK and Ireland country manager for the International Air Transport Association, told MPs: ‘There was a tremendous amount of expectation from this report and we expected it to be, if you like, the start of the sprint to the finish.

‘But it has turned out to be another milestone and I think that is the disappointment in it.

‘It has provided that framework, it has provided some clarity but there are many areas that are still unanswered… it is very vague in many areas such as the timescale to when the border will be ready, which countries will fall into which category.

‘I think crucially the approach to reopening we believe is still too complex and too cautious I’m afraid.' 

Chris Garton, chief solutions officer at Heathrow Airport, expressed concerns about the proposed testing regime and added: ‘Our biggest issue in terms of the summer particularly is the performance at the border and we need to see a dramatic improvement in border performance if we are to increase passenger numbers travelling through Heathrow.’

Mr McNamara echoed a similar sentiment on border checks as he said: ‘Finally, it is the point that Chris raised which is the ability of the border to handle any scale up in operations. 

'It is unable to cope at the moment so we are very concerned about that also.’

Brian Strutton, the general secretary of the British Airline Pilots Association, told the Committee that the taskforce's report was a 'bitter disappointment to everybody working in the industry'.

‘The expectation was this would be the blueprint to get summer flights going again,' he said. ‘In fact it is not, it is a jam tomorrow, “we might let you know next month where you can fly to and when”.

‘There is no specificity in it at all so as a result many airlines have already told us they will be curtailing the plans they had for the summer.’ 

Mark Tanzer, the chief executive of the Association of British Travel Agents, said firms are increasingly feeling the strain as he cautioned against further delays to resuming holidays abroad. 

He said: ‘I guess I can’t emphasise enough the urgency of pushing forward with this given the state of the industry which has been in suspension for over a year now and the fact that we have gone through Easter and out the other side with international travel illegal means there is even more pressure on the summer season.

‘A week lost is vital for a lot of members who could be teetering on the brink.' 

The evidence to MPs came after Mr Lundgren struck a more optimistic tone on Wednesday morning, telling reporters: 'I will struggle to see that there will be, unless something happens between now and then, that there would be many (European) countries who wouldn't be in that green category.' 

Mr Lundgren said the main question customers were asking was which countries would be on the 'green list' as he urged the Government to come forward with more details as soon as possible.

He added: 'We would expect that, if the Government continues with the approach on the testing regime that they have said, I would expect almost all major European countries, that by the time it comes to travel reopening, that most countries in Europe should be in that category.'

Travel to and from a 'green' country will require people to be tested before they leave their holiday destination and again two days after arrival back in the UK.

The Government is exploring whether cheaper rapid lateral flow tests could be used for the pre-departure check with a PCR test then used for the test after arrival. 

Mr Lundgren said: 'If the PCR test and the lateral flow test will need to be in place for 'green' countries, I couldn't see that there would be many countries in Europe that wouldn't be in the 'green' category. 

'It's important the Government comes out with this list as soon as possible because this is the main question for most of our customers right now.

'They want to know if the favourite destination for them to go on their holiday or to visit friends and family across Europe is that country in the 'green' category.

'And it will be a big difference, of course, if you're in the 'green' category, versus if you're in 'amber' or 'red'.'

The UK's seven-day rate of coronavirus cases per 100,000 people stands at 29, while many popular short-haul locations have much higher figures, including France (348), Greece (185), Italy (169) and Spain (111). 

Asked if he expects destinations such as France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Croatia, Cyprus and Turkey to be on the Government 'green list', Mr Lundgren replied: 'Yes, by the time we open up for travel on May 17 and if the Government continues to have the plan in place on the two-test system.

'I wouldn't see reason why you wouldn't have the majority of the countries of Europe in there.

'We really believe that, if you're in the 'green' category, there should not be any need of any testing at all because it would be considered low-risk.'

Meanwhile, BA boss Mr Doyle said swift vaccine rollouts in the UK and the US should enable transatlantic routes to reopen.

'There's an immediate opportunity to open up the US,' Mr Doyle said during CAPA Live, an online industry event.

With the two countries 'more or less mirroring each other' on vaccination, he said 'that should lead to the UK and the US being able to lead the way in terms of opening up'.  

Paul Charles, the CEO of The PC Agency, said he believes discussions between the US and the UK are 'proceeding positively'.    

He told MailOnline: 'The UK/US governments are in negotiations at the moment which are proceeding positively, about a possible pilot bilateral corridor scheme to enable safe travel between the two countries after the end of May.

'One of the (eight) Global Travel Taskforce workstreams is called 'Engaging with other like-minded countries' – these are countries such as the US which have advanced vaccine rollout programmes and are focused on reducing infection and variant rates.

'The Biden Administration has also been consulting in the US about opening up borders in advance of American Independence Day in July.' 

One Whitehall source said Greece could make it on to the so-called 'green list' next month despite a recent rise in cases, while the USA, Gibraltar, Malta and much of the Caribbean are tipped for green status. 

There remains a rumbling row over the Government's plans to require people travelling to 'green' countries to be tested for coronavirus.

Current PCR prices mean a family of four with two children over the age of 11 could face a testing bill of approximately £500. 

Airline bosses have called for the testing requirement to be ditched or for teh PCR tests to be replaced with lateral flow tests which take 30 minutes to deliver a result. 

The Association of British Travel Agents has warned that the cost of testing could be a 'major barrier' to going abroad this summer.

Luke Petherbridge, Abta's director of public affairs, told Sky News that the travel industry feels 'an overriding sense of frustration' with the 'lack of detail' in the Global Travel Taskforce's recent report on how international travel could safely return.

He said the sector needs to know the precise criteria by which countries are going to be assessed to determine their risk levels.

Mr Petherbridge said: 'Testing is going to be a major barrier to travel this summer - we need the Government to engage with the industry on how we can bring down the cost of testing.'

Commenting on the Global Travel Taskforce's recommended approach to potentially low-risk countries, he said: 'We cannot understand why countries in the green category should require a PCR test.

'We believe a double lateral flow test approach would be a more proportionate approach to follow in that category.'

Mr Strutton told Sky News the Government should be subsidising the PCR tests to make the price more reasonable.

He also urged the Government to 'kick-start' international travel by offering the tests free to key workers as 'they deserve a holiday'. 

Mr Doyle said his airline will make PCR tests available to customers for just £60.

This echoes the announcement by a major Covid testing firm that they were going to halve the price of their tests.

Randox said last week that it will charge holidaymakers jetting back to Britain £60 for the gold standard tests, rather than the usual £120 they would cost.

The cut-price tests will be available for customers of partnering airlines, which have not yet been revealed but Mr Doyle's comments this morning suggest British Airways could be among them.

Randox managing director Dr Peter FitzGerald said: 'In recognition of the needs of both the travel industry and the British public at this unprecedented time, Randox will reduce the all-inclusive cost of PCR testing for those in the UK undertaking international travel to £60 per test.

'We can see the pressures faced by both the travel industry and the general public and are committed to effective and economical testing to support holidaymakers and those undertaking international travel.'

The £60 PCR test will be ordered online and purchased using a discount code, Randox said. 

It comes as easyJet has said it is getting ready to 'ramp up' services for the summer holiday season by offering more flights from late May after restrictions ease.

The carrier said it expects to fly up to 20 per cent of 2019 capacity levels between April and June, with most countries planning to resume flying at scale in May.

EasyJet flew just 14 per cent of its 2019 flight programme between October and the end of March.

The group confirmed it will slump to a steep first-half loss, of between £690 million and £730 million for the six months to March 31, but said this is slightly better than expected thanks largely to stringent cost-cutting.

It burned through around £470 million of cash during its second quarter to the end of December, which was lower than feared as it slashed costs by nearly 60 per cent to about £854 million.

Mr Lundgren said: 'We continue to closely monitor the situation across Europe and, with vaccination programmes accelerating, most countries are planning to resume flying at scale in May.

'We have the operational flexibility to rapidly increase flying and add destinations to match demand.

'EasyJet is ready to resume flying, prepared for the ramp-up and looking forward to being able to reunite people with their families or take them on leisure and business flights once again.'

But he reiterated calls for the Government to cut the price of Covid-19 tests for air passengers, having previously said they sometimes cost more than easyJet's tickets.

He said: 'EasyJet was founded to make travel accessible for all and so we continue to engage with Government to ensure that the cost of the required testing is driven down so that it doesn't risk turning back the clock and make travel too costly for some.' 

This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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