Just when you thought the holidays couldn’t get more complicated, more anxious, over the weekend it appeared the government was considering a new class of traffic lights.
It is still the worst. Presentation: the “amber watchlist”.
Inclusion in this category would mean that a country is at risk of going from orange to red in the short term. Whether “short notice” means 24 hours or a few days is unclear.
As it stands, coming back from an Amber Country isn’t too prohibitive. In the event of a double bite, you can return from orange countries without quarantine. Everyone must quarantine themselves at home for up to 10 days, with the option of going out with a negative test result after the fifth day. But red is the nuclear category: 10 days locked in a quarantine hotel at your expense.
Ever since we first saw images of desperate-looking individuals holding up handwritten “help” signs in hotel airport windows, the idea of hotel quarantine has been around. like an insignificant worry. But with the exception of Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and a handful of other countries, it has so far applied to areas of the world less visited by your average British vacationer.
The reason the Amber Watchlist is such a proposal nightmare is because it represents a rickety walkway, made of rotten wood and threadbare rope, between the Amber and Red lists. And countries up for this challenge aren’t just faraway lands you never thought to visit – they could be our favorite destinations.
It is understood that, if introduced, due to their high rate of Covid cases, Spain and Greece could be added to the watch list, and France could move from “amber plus” to the new category. . Whether France would still inexplicably demand a home quarantine for all (including the double hit) is to be guessed.
If implemented, the Orange Watch List would cast any temporary confidence in the holidays: a deliberate “don’t go” imposition, by stealth.
Why? Because the risk of checking your phone while lying next to a swimming pool in Malaga and seeing the headline “Spain added to UK Red List” is, for most of us, a problem. scenario that cannot even be entertained. For a family this would mean a stressful and costly ride home, or a 10 night stay in a quarantine hotel costing £ 1,750 for an adult, £ 650 for a second adult or children aged 11 and over and £ 350 for the youngest. This risk would outweigh the benefits of going on vacation.
There are additional complications. If Spain is on the Orange Watch List, the government will likely drop the non-essential travel advisory from Spain’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. Such a change would invalidate insurance and force vacation companies to reschedule trips. If the FCDO does not change its notices to Amber Watch List countries, it would put vacationers in a very precarious position, as it will be much more difficult to request refunds or reschedule vacations.
A catalog of Conservative backbenchers and industry leaders have spoken out against the proposal.
A Conservative MP accused the government of threatening to create an orange watch list just to deter people from traveling.
Henry Smith, Conservative chairman of the multi-stakeholder group Future of Aviation, warned the government that complicating the traffic light system with new categories “would increase confusion and therefore discourage travel,” adding: “It’s not helpful in terms of of trusted passengers. “
We see it this morning. In a poll conducted this morning by the PC Agency on Twitter, 80% of the 4000 respondents said they had no confidence in booking future trips in light of the latest traffic light system.
At this time, it is unclear whether the proposal will actually materialize. Ministers are due to assess the latest data from the Joint Biosafety Center later in the week, in the latest traffic light update, but will face Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Transport Minister Grant Shapps who are said to be against the proposal. orange watch list. .
In the meantime, British holidaymakers must sit down and wait. And nervously. Because if your destination is on the amber watch list, all sound advice would be to rethink your plans.