This afternoon, the UK government announced the latest updates to the travel list. There were no new additions to the green list, something the tourism industry is not happy about. The whole of Spain remains on the amber list.
The latest updates to the travel traffic light list come into effect at 4am on Tuesday 8th June.
When the UK government created a traffic light system of countries for UK citizens, it originally placed 12 countries and territories on the list. Portugal was one such country. However, it seems Portugal is no longer deemed ‘safe’.
This is despite Portugal’s incidence rate being lower than the UK’s. However, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the BBC that moving Portugal from the green to the amber list is a “safety first approach” to “give us the best chance of unlocking domestically”.
He says Portugal has seen a doubling of infection rates since the previous travel review. There is also “a sort of Nepal mutation of the so-called Indian variant which has been detected, and we just don’t know the potential for that to be a vaccine defeating mutation,” Shapps added.
Spain had hoped to ‘turn green’
Spain had hoped it would ‘turn green’ with the latest announcement, or at least the island groups with their low incidence rate.
However, all parts of Spain remain on the amber list. The UK government is also urging British citizens not to travel to amber countries as they are concerned they could bring a mutation back to the UK.
UK ministers had hinted at bad news
Earlier in the week, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had said he would not hesitate to move green list countries to amber or red lists if necessary.
And today, Matt Hancock, UK Health Secretary, told the BBC: “We’ve got to protect the progress that we’ve made here at home whilst of course allowing for travel when it’s safe to do so. We’ve got to follow the data.”
Blow for British holidaymakers
Naturally, this is a terrible blow for those hoping for a summer holiday in Portugal, the Canaries, Balearics or Greek islands.
Island destinations, it was argued, posed a lesser risk and should be moved to the green list. However, the UK government does not seem to believe travel across Europe is particularly safe.
As a country on the amber list, there are restrictions on travel between Spain and the UK. The UK government’s advice can be found here.
Travel industry shocked and angered over decision
Johan Lundgren, chief executive of easyJet, said: “This shock decision to add Portugal to the Amber list is a huge blow to those who are currently in Portugal and those who have booked to be reunited with loved ones, or take a well-deserved break this summer.
“With Portuguese rates similar to those in the UK it simply isn’t justified by the science.”
He continued that adding no more countries to the green list when “most of Europe’s infection rates are on a downward trend… makes no sense”.
“When this framework was put together, consumers were promised a waiting list to allow them to plan,” he said.
“Yet the government has torn up its own rule book and ignored the science, throwing people’s plans into chaos, with virtually no notice or alternative options for travel from the UK. This decision essentially cuts the UK off from the rest of the world.”
Robert Boyle, former director of strategy at British Airways’ parent company IAG, says: “In theory, we know what is being measured and the data sources being used, as the government has published that.
“What we don’t know is what the thresholds are and how they get from the data to the decisions.
“I think the truth is they follow the opinion polls.”
Costa del Sol hoteliers had been positive about the summer, this may dash their hopes.
Airline share prices fall
After the main news stations reported no new countries would be added to the green list, and of Portugal’s removal, share prices fell for the main airlines.
At 4pm this afternoon, IAG, the parent company of British Airways and Iberia, was down 5%. Easyjet and Jet2 both fell 5%, while Ryanair dropped by 2.6% and Tui by 3%.