Summer holidays in jeopardy over amber plus travel list
- Six million UK holidaymakers facing summer holiday ruin
- Spain and Greece could join France on the UK government’s “amber plus” COVID travel list
- Heathrow urges the British government to reopen international travel after pandemic-induced losses hit USD 4BN
- Newly appointed UK Health Minister Sajid Javid comes under fire over “insensitive comments”
It emerged today that summer holiday plans for approximately six million people in the UK are on the brink of ruin, with Spain and Greece set to join France on the UK government’s new “amber plus” COVID travel list.
According to the Labour party, an estimated 5,857,558 UK holidaymakers could be forced to self-isolate for ten days if Spain and Greece are added to the new restricted travel list.
There have also been reports that ministers will add Italy to the amber plus list, which would throw thousands more summer holiday plans into disarray.
The amber plus restriction category differs from the amber list as self-isolation rules would also apply to double vaccinated passengers, who are generally exempt from quarantine mandates when returning from “amber” destinations.
Britain implemented the move against EU member states after scientists raised concerns over the spike in coronavirus infections in continental Europe, fuelled by the spread of the more transmissible Delta variant.
Currently, travellers arriving into the UK from France must quarantine for ten days, irrespective of whether they are double jabbed.
Although the British government is yet to announce whether Spain and Greece will join France on the amber plus list, 15 months of stop-start restrictions and U-turns by government ministers have left holidaymakers cautious.
It also comes amid news that Heathrow airport arrivals had to queue for hours after e-gates broke on the busiest weekend of the year thus far.
Heathrow Airport descends into chaos on the busiest weekend of the year
Heathrow Airport CEO John Holland-Kaye has apologised to travellers who had to queue for hours due to e-gate chaos on the busiest weekend of the year.
Many passengers missed pre-booked taxis and coaches after being forced to queue for up to three hours and undergo extra checks at border control due to broken e-gates.
Mr Holland-Kaye apologised to those that had been subjected to lengthy border delays, admitting that Heathrow airport had been “caught out by a combination of Border Force officers being “pinged” by the NHS COVID app and faults with the e-gates.”
It has also emerged that Border Force workers have been redeployed from airports to deal with the migrant crisis on the English Channel, with data from the Home Office revealing that the number of people crossing the UK has hit record levels.
The news has raised concerns over Heathrow’s ability to cope with passenger volumes while operating a reduced workforce. One aviation source told The Telegraph that “chaos at borders is the thing we are dreading the most.”
Despite being the busiest weekend for the airport since the UK government lifted COVID-19 restrictions, Heathrow’s passenger numbers were down by approximately 132,000 compared to the same period during 2019.
The airport expected passenger volumes to reach 128,000 during “freedom weekend”, down from pre-pandemic levels of around 260,000.
John Holland-Kaye has said the slow reopening of travel in Britain has caused the UK aviation industry’s recovery to fall behind its European counterparts, noting that just four million people travelled in H1 2021 – levels reached within the first 18 days of 2019.
Heathrow airports calls for a more sustainable reopening of travel
London’s Heathrow Airport, which is facing GBP 2.9BN (USD 4BN) in losses, urged the British government to end last-minute rule changes and reopen travel more sustainably.
The airport hopes that the final unlocking of the UK economy will unleash a wave of pent-up demand for holidays and propel Heathrow passenger volumes to 21.5 million in 2021.
Although the UK government launched a traffic light system to facilitate international travel, spikes in COVID-19 cases at home and abroad have led to last-minute rule changes and cancellations.
UK Shadow Transport Secretary Jim McMahon claimed that the British government has “failed to protect all of our borders, allowed COVID cases to surge and was unable to be transparent with the public by feeding them confusing and conflicting information.
“If they had provided clear information on travel and rules for non-vaccinated and unvaccinated passengers, people would be able to book with confidence.
“Instead, families who have summer holiday bookings are at risk of losing out following the introduction of the new “amber plus” category as a 10-day quarantine is not an option for those who are already facing financial hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic.”
UK Environment Secretary George Eustice hit back at criticism stating that the government introduced new measures to protect Britons from the novel Delta variant.
Mr Eustice said that once evidence shows that the infection rate in the EU is declining, we can put countries such as France back on the regular “amber” list, which would allow vaccinated travellers to return to Britain without needing to quarantine.
It comes amid news that newly appointed health secretary Sajid Javid was accused of “spooking” UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson into moving France to the amber plus list.
UK Health Minister Sajid Javid faces criticism
Britain’s Health Minister Sajid Javid has come under fire for “frightening” UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson into throwing thousands of holidaymakers’ plans into chaos by adding France to the “ill-fated” amber plus list for travel.
One source claimed that Mr Javid overreacted to claims that the AstraZeneca vaccine is not as effective against new mutations of SARS-CoV-2, such as the South African variant.
Mr Javid warned Downing Street of the spike in South African variant cases in Europe, which has accounted for 2.6% of all COVID cases in France and 14.5% of coronavirus caseloads in Spain over the past month.
It came after new real-world data demonstrated that the AstraZeneca jab is 83% effective against preventing severe COVID symptoms and hospitalisation but has an efficacy rate of 88% against the B.1.617.2 variant.
He urged the UK public to get their coronavirus vaccines, stating: “Please – if you haven’t yet – get your jab, as we learn to live with, rather than cower from, this virus.”
His comments received widespread backlash from the public, with experts describing his choice of words as insensitive given that many people have lost loved ones to the virus and suffered severe symptoms after unknowingly meeting someone carrying the virus.
Scottish National Party (SNP) Minister Ian Blackford stated: “It’s the government’s job to keep the public safe and empathise with members of the society. His (Mr Javid’s) comments are unacceptable – you might want to reflect and think about your role as health secretary in England.”
The coronavirus pandemic has affected millions of people in Britain and resulted in 153,070 fatalities with COVID-19 on the death certificate.
Some people were also unable to attend the funerals of loved ones due to social gathering limitations.
Mr Javid later backtracked on his comments and apologised for his “poor choice of words”, insisting that he intended to “express gratitude over the positive impact vaccines are having on our fight against COVID-19.”
In a new tweet, the health secretary also said he had deleted his earlier post, adding: “Like many, I have lost loved ones to this awful virus and would never minimise its impact.”
According to GOV.uk, 83,724,111 coronavirus vaccines have been administered in Britain, of which 46,563,452 UK adults have received one COVID vaccine dose, and 37,160,659 or 70% of the adult population are fully vaccinated.
The UK government confirmed that every adult in Britain has been offered a COVID vaccine and urged those who are yet to come forward to get vaccinated immediately.
It comes after the NHS Test and Trace app “pinged” a record number of people last week, resulting in food shortages and delays to public transport as high volumes of workers were advised to isolate themselves by the COVID app.
Several newspapers displayed frontpages with images on empty supermarket shelves. At the same time, Britain’s most prominent food chains – ASDA, Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s – said they were facing challenges due to a reduced workforce.
Downing Street introduced new isolation measures for critical workers to mitigate the strain on UK supermarkets, allowing them to return to work if they have met someone who tested positive for the virus, but they tested negative for COVID-19.
An extra 200 testing sites are also expected to open across the country to facilitate the new isolation rules.
However, new data has shown that Britain’s COVID infection rate is declining, as the number of infections recorded in the most recent 7-day period has halved, raising hopes that caseloads have already peaked in the UK.
According to official statistics, 29,173 coronavirus cases were recorded on July 26th, down from 31,795 reported on Saturday and nearly half recorded last Tuesday.
Although the UK’s infection rate is declining, ministers have appealed for more Brits to get vaccinated ahead of plans to introduce COVID vaccine passports.
From October, Britons may need coronavirus vaccine passports showing that they are fully vaccinated to attend large events and nightclubs.