Travel: Ibiza, Majorca and Menorca could return to UK’s amber list
- Spanish holiday islands could return to the UK’s amber list
- Impending travel update could deliver a significant blow to BA, Jet2, EasyJet, Ryanair and Virgin Atlantic
- UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to provide the latest COVID travel update on Thursday, July 15th
- Malta refuses to accept British travellers that received the Indian-made AstraZeneca vaccine
More countries are at risk of moving to the UK’s amber list, and red list international travel lists this week due to a spike in global coronavirus cases.
According to the latest reports, popular holiday destinations such as Menorca, Mallorca, and Ibiza could be downgraded to “amber” just weeks after receiving “green” status.
Thousands of Brits had booked flights to the Balearic Islands from Heathrow Airport the moment these islands landed on the green list.
Majorca is also one of the most affordable destinations on the green list to travel to, hence its popularity. Unfortunately, it is also one of the worst-affected areas for COVID-19, with 420 cases of the 599 reported on Tuesday identified in Majorca.
Under the UK government’s traffic light system, travellers returning to Britain from green-listed destinations do not need to self-isolate upon arrival.
Those arriving from amber-listed countries must quarantine for ten days and take a coronavirus test on or before day two or their return, while those returning from “red” destinations must self-isolate in government-designated hotels and take two COVID tests.
News of the Spanish Balearic islands being downgraded to amber comes weeks ahead of the summer holiday season. Although UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is yet to announce the latest update to the traffic light system, the prospect of the Balearic islands being downgraded to amber is likely given the spike in coronavirus cases in the Spanish archipelago.
Spanish holiday hotspots could return to the amber list
According to the latest data, the infection rate in Spain has tripled over the past two weeks to 402 per 100,00 people, with a New York Times report noting that medical experts identified 43,690 cases in the last 24 hours.
Meanwhile, the Balearic Islands – which have been popular holiday destinations for Brits after being moved to the green list – reports 258 cases per 100,000 people.
The spike in infection caseloads is set to see these tourist hotspots return to the amber list following the next government review.
Suppose they end up being categorised as “amber”. In that case, Britons returning from Menorca, Majorca, or Ibiza would be forced to quarantine for ten days at home and produce a negative COVID test on day two and on or after day eight of self-isolation.
Experts also believe that destinations such as Indonesia and Sierra Leone could be moved to the red list, meaning travellers arriving from these countries must quarantine for ten days in government-designated hotels at costs ranging from GBP 1,750.
Any expansion to the red or amber list would deliver a significant blow to Britain’s aviation industry, with airlines such as Virgin Atlantic, Jet2, British Airways, EasyJet and Ryanair anticipating a summer travel frenzy following months of COVID border restrictions.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has declined to comment on whether they would be lowering the Balearic Islands to amber status, which may have dampened hopes ahead of the travel announcement.
However, under new rules outlined by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, fully vaccinated travellers arriving into Britain from amber-listed countries after the July 19th “Freedom Day” will not be forced to quarantine.
Still, these new rules disadvantage young people, many of which have not been vaccinated yet or only received one dose of a COVID jab.
Adults awaiting their second coronavirus vaccinations are also disadvantaged, as are those who received the Indian-manufactured version of the AstraZeneca vaccine, given that some countries do not recognise it.
Malta bars entry to travellers vaccinated with the Indian-made AstraZeneca jab
Approximately five million Brits have been unknowingly jabbed with the Indian-manufactured version of the AstraZeneca vaccine, known as Covihsield, which, while authorised in the UK, is not accepted in Europe.
Although the chemical formula is identical to the COVID shot manufactured in the UK as the Indian-made version is not approved in Europe or recognised under the new coronavirus vaccine passport scheme, EU member states have the right to deny you entry.
Initially, this was perceived as a theoretical issue; however, newswire reports have revealed that tourists are being turned away at the border as their vaccination is not acknowledged.
According to recent reports, the latest victims were a British couple heading to Malta to visit their son after a year.
One of the travellers, Steve Hardy, said: “When we took our vaccine – we had a vaccine – we were asked to take them. We took both doses. We didn’t know what we were getting.
“We trusted the government on that. Boris Johnson said that there were no Indian vaccines issued in this country. That’s a lie because it’s on our page.”
Mr Johnson has attempted to downplay concerns that Britons who have received the Indian-manufactured AstraZeneca vaccine will be prohibited from travelling to continental Europe.
Britain’s Transport Secretary also insisted that Britons who had received the “Covishield” jab should be allowed to travel.
In an interview with BBC Breakfast, Mr Shapps said that he would speak with his counterparts in Malta to resolve the issue.
He added: “The MHRA has clearly stated that it doesn’t matter whether the AstraZeneca vaccine administered is manufactured in the UK or the Serum Institute in India, as the chemical formula is identical. The COVID jab manufactured by the Serum Institute in India offers the same levels of protection from the virus.
“The UK government will certainly be speaking to our Maltese colleagues on the matter, albeit it is inevitably up to them to decide whether they want to recognise that there is no difference between the coronavirus vaccines.”
Fifteen European countries, including Germany and Belgium, recognise Covishield but Malta remains sceptical of the vaccine.
Under guidance from the Malta Tourism Authority, anyone who has received the Indian-made dose, identifiable by batch numbers 4120Z001, 4120Z002 and 4120Z003 visible on the NHS COVID app, will not be allowed entry.
The Maltese Government has taken that stance despite data showing that more than 50% of EU adults are now vaccinated, and almost 70% of people in Malta have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
When is the next travel announcement in the UK?
UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is scheduled to announce updates on the traffic light system on Thursday, July 15th.
Although destinations such as Ibiza, Mallorca and Menorca are expected to be downgraded, other tourist hotspots such as Germany, Italy and Bulgaria could be upgraded to “green” due to their improved coronavirus situation.
Robert Boyle, the former director of strategy at BA’s parent company IAG, believes that the UK could promote Hong Kong and Taiwan to the green list.
The travel announcement will come days ahead of “Freedom Day” in the UK, with changes to the traffic light system likely to be enforced on Wednesday, July 21st.
From July 19th, fully vaccinated holidaymakers will no longer have to quarantine for ten days upon returning to the UK from amber listed destinations, with under-18s also exempt.
Official Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advice on travel to amber listed destinations is also expected to change when most legal limitations on social contact are removed from July 19th.
If I’m fully vaccinated, will I still need to take a COVID test?
Fully vaccinated holiday goers will still need to take a coronavirus test on or before the second day of their return but will not be required to test on the eighth day.
To qualify as double vaccinated, travellers will also need to prove that 14 days have passed since their second coronavirus vaccination dose.
While this is a positive for Britons, countries could deny UK travellers entry due to Britain’s spiralling infection rate. An additional 36,660 coronavirus cases were confirmed on July 13th, and 50 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for the virus – the highest daily increase since early April.
The uptick in the infection rate has also sparked a row in the House of Commons over domestic travel rules, with London Mayor Sadiq Khan fighting to make the use of face coverings mandatory on public transport following the final unlocking of the UK economy.
Wales has decided to continue enforcing face mask rules in most indoor public spaces even after coronavirus restrictions are scrapped from August 7th.
The Welsh government will replace social distancing rules with risk assessments to ensure the safe reopening of nightclubs and other entertainment venues that have been shuttered since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.