‘No guarantee’ amber destinations won’t switch to red

The government relaxation of restrictions on travel to amber list countries from July 19 came with a warning there is “no guarantee” an amber destination won’t switch to red.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps also warned travellers to expect queues due to Covid restrictions at both ends of their journey to amber or green destinations.

Shapps confirmed today that fully vaccinated UK residents returning to England from amber countries will no longer be subject to quarantine restrictions from July 19, though they will still have to take a test pre-departure and a PCR test post-arrival in the UK.

The relaxation will make the requirements for green and amber travel the same for fully vaccinated adults, with children under 18 returning from amber countries also no longer needing to self-isolate.

But Shapps warned: “I must caution an amber list country could switch to red. I can provide no guarantees. The path of the coronavirus is unpredictable.

“There will be no change to the requirements of arrivals from countries on the red list and the government won’t hesitate to act if required. An amber list country could still turn red, meaning mandatory hotel quarantine.”

He also warned: “I want to be clear – travel won’t be the same as in 2019. People should expect it will be different at the borders. Longer waiting times will be necessitated.”

Asked to confirm that the UK’s Border Force would be adequately staffed to handle increased passenger numbers, Shapps said: “Waiting at check-in when abroad may be where queues exist.

“These additional checks are likely to cause delays on both sides.

“Passengers will need to include their vaccination information on the passenger locator form and carriers will be required to check this before boarding.”

Asked about the threat this could pose to traveller confidence if refunds or re-bookings are required, Shapps said: “The travel industry has by and large stepped up to the plate on this.

“The government has also stepped in to help – we made the voucher [refund credit note issued for a cancelled package booking] government guaranteed.”

He insisted: “I’m working closely with the travel industry. It has involved some cajoling to ensure the travel industry is in the right place on this and I’m aware the competition authority [CMA] is looking at this in relation to one or two airlines.

“We want to see flexibility in the system. That is why we backed the Atol system.”

The government has confirmed to underwrite the Air Travel Trust fund which supports the Atol system until at least September 2022 and the CAA has confirmed refund credit notes for Atol bookings cancelled due to Covid are protected up to the same deadline.

Shapps denied that the recent change in health secretary, with Sajid Javid replacing Matt Hancock, had produced a “change of pace” in reopening travel, saying: “The change of pace is because we now have a majority of adults fully vaccinated.

“I was already in discussions on this [relaxation] with the former health secretary.”

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