Covid travel: minister defends plan for amber watchlist in England

A government minister has defended proposals for an amber watchlist for travel destinations, as Labour warned it would merely add to the confusion over which countries are safe to visit during the summer holidays.

Matt Warman, the minister for digital infrastructure, said the travel watchlist for England would provide people with more information so they could make “informed decisions”.

A country would be placed on such a list if there was a risk its coronavirus situation could cause it to be reclassified as red with little warning. Anyone entering the UK from a red-listed country must spend a period in hotel quarantine, at their own cost.

Speaking on Sky News on Monday, Warman said: “The point of the watchlist that you refer to is to try and give people a sense of the direction of travel that a country is going in, it’s to try and provide people with as much information as possible when they make those decisions about where they might want to go on holiday.

“Of course it is … great news to be opening up, that people who are coming back from amber-list countries don’t need to be quarantining, that’s a good sign of the direction that this country is going in thanks to the vaccination programme, but we do have to bear in mind that other countries are in a range of other positions.”

Responding to Warman’s comments, Anneliese Dodds, the Labour party chair, told Sky it appeared the government was again in “disarray” over the traffic-light system. She called on the government to be transparent about the data it uses to make decisions on foreign travel.

She told Times Radio: “We don’t want to see additional confusion and chaos here … We’ve been here before, we’ve been in this chaos before, and yet government seems to be providing just more of the same, more confusion, more extra categories.

“What we’ve said for months as the Labour party is that the Conservative government need to be open and transparent, they need to be actually publishing the data that they’re taking their decisions on.

“They need to be also seeking that agreement around vaccine passports internationally that they’ve said they’re trying to do, but we’ve seen no evidence of progress there.

“If there’s more openness, I think that’s going to build trust in the system.

“The problem is, right now holidaymakers just don’t know who to believe and we’ve got … seem to have the chancellor briefing against the prime minister in the Sunday papers. That’s not building confidence, ultimately, in the system.”

Pressure has been building on Boris Johnson to redraw restrictions on foreign travel, with Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, writing to the prime minister to demand changes to the UK quarantine policy.

In the letter, seen by the Sunday Times, Sunak said UK border policy was “out of step with our international competitors”. He said there was little time to save the summer for tourism and hospitality sectors.

Also on Monday morning, the chief executive of Heathrow airport told the British government to make travel rules simple and called for restrictions on travellers from France to be eased.

“We just need to keep it simple,” John Holland-Kaye told Sky when asked about reports Britain may warn tourists against travel to Spain. He said the green list of countries, from which travellers do not have to self-isolate, should be expanded.

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