People will be able to go on holiday “without looking over their shoulders the whole time”, Grant Shapps has said, as he promised that the next set of travel changes will not come “for another three weeks”.
The transport secretary told Kay Burley on Sky News that while ministers must “always keep an eye on the virus” the movement of countries including France, India and the UAE back to the amber list and Germany, Austria and Slovenia to the green list is “really good news” for Britons.
On Wednesday evening, the government announced that fully vaccinated travellers and under 18s arriving in England from France will no longer need to isolate, while India is coming off the red list.
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Grant Shapps said the changes will allow ‘more travel during the summer’.
Holiday hotspot Spain – where it is thought up to a million Britons are currently on holiday – is staying on the amber list, despite worries that it could have been added to red.
Travellers arriving back from Spain are being urged to take a PCR test before flying home “as a precaution against the increased prevalence of the virus and variants in the country”.
The latest travel changes will take effect from 4am on Sunday.
Mr Shapps said the changes will allow “more travel during the summer”.
Asked whether countries could move categories at short notice, he told Sky News: “I think you know that with coronavirus… you can never say zero chance with coronavirus.
“But, having said that, the levels of vaccination and what we now know about the virus, what our scientists have been able to work out in the last year, means that people should be able to go away, enjoy their holidays without looking over their shoulders the whole time.
“And, as I say, the next set of changes are not for another three weeks.”
Mr Shapps added that the vaccine rollout has been “the big game changer” in allowing the further opening up of international travel.
“And so, more travel during the summer – and these are the changes which exist, we hope, throughout August,” he said.
“There aren’t any changes next week or the week after – people, we hope, will enjoy their holidays.”
In a surprise move, the government also announced in the latest travel update that the cost for solo travellers staying at a quarantine hotel will go up from 12 August, from £1,750 to £2,285.
The charge for an additional adult sharing a room will increase from £650 to £1,430.
According to the government, this is to “better reflect the increased costs involved”.
All those returning from a red list country will have to stay in a quarantine hotel for ten days.
Seven countries are moving to the green list: Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Romania and Norway.
Eight more countries including Germany and Austria have been added to the green list
This means people will not have to quarantine when returning from these nations, regardless of their vaccination status, although they will have to take a pre-departure test before flying home and another two days after arrival.
India, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates will move from the red list to amber, meaning travellers will no longer have to pay to quarantine in a hotel for 11 days.
Returning from amber list countries has usually meant a 10-day period quarantining at home – but under-18s and those fully vaccinated in the UK are now exempt, as well as those who have received both jabs in the EU and US.
There are four additions to the red list: Mexico, Georgia and the French overseas territories of La Reunion and Mayotte.
The government said its decision to bin the amber plus list that France was on and align it with the rest of the amber category “simplifies the system to three categories” once more.
The cost for solo travellers staying at a quarantine hotel will go up from 12 August, from £1,750 to £2,285
But the green watchlist, which gives travellers notice of countries whose green status is at risk of changing, remains in place and is unchanged with 16 countries on the list.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the announcement was “based on the latest data and expert public health advice”.
He added: “As well as moving more countries to the green list, today’s announcement also demonstrates the need for continued caution.
“Further countries have been added to the red list to help protect the success of our vaccine rollout from the threat of new variants.”
Labour’s shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said ministers had “plunged the summer plans of thousands of families into chaos” with what he said was their “flip-flopping over France”.
France has moved back to the amber list from amber-plus which means travellers returning will not have to quarantine if double-jabbed
“While everyone wants to see international travel open up, it has to be done safely,” he said.
“Ministers must explain to passengers and the industry how they’ve reached these changes with clear information on the direction of travel of infections in each country.
“Ministers need to get a grip and set out a proper strategy, provide full data, and progress work with global partners on international vaccine passports so travellers and the industry can have clarity instead of reckless U-turns and confusion.”