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Holiday chaos as government sends mixed messages about amber list countries

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Written by: Emma Lunn
19/05/2021
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned that people should not be holidaying in amber list countries following conflicting advice from other government ministers.

The ban on international travel was lifted on Monday. Overseas countries are now classified as green, amber or red. Travellers can return to England from green list countries without quarantining. But those returning from amber countries must self-isolate for 10 days.

Yesterday saw environment secretary George Eustice say on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that people could travel to amber list countries to see family and friends. But health minister Lord Bethell said people should not travel at all, even to green list countries.

Also on Tuesday, Welsh secretary Simon Hart told Times Radio the public should ask themselves whether a trip to a country on the amber list was essential, before saying that “some people might think a holiday is essential”.

But today the education minister Gillian Keegan urged people to be “sensible” and not travel to amber list countries for holidays, a message later repeated by the prime minister.

Meanwhile, Matt Hancock told MPs there must be “an exceptional reason” for travel to an amber list country, and said the government advice is “very clear”.

James Andrews, senior personal finance editor at money.co.uk, said: “Although the government has made it perfectly clear in their messaging that any Brits looking to travel abroad must only do so within ‘green listed’ countries – such as Portugal, Gibraltar, Iceland and Singapore – there is still, understandably, much confusion regarding how long certain destinations are to remain on the restricted amber and red lists.

“This is heightened even further by the fact that a large majority of British travel providers are attempting to regain some of their pandemic-related losses by continuing to allow passengers to book holidays to such amber listed destinations as Cuba, Barbados, Antigua and the Greek islands.

“Additional confusion is added by different regional restrictions inside the UK – with the rules for foreign travel also sometimes changing depending on whether you are in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland or England.”

To complicate matters more, the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) currently advises against non-essential travel to most countries not on the government’s green list for travel, including Spain and Greece. However, it no longer advises against travel to some amber destinations such as the Canary Islands, Crete, Rhodes, Corfu, Kos and Zakynthos.

Meanwhile the European Union has announced plans to let fully vaccinated travelers into EU countries, as well as holidaymakers from “safe” countries.

It’s not illegal to go on holiday to an amber list country and some tour operators are still selling package holidays to these destinations.

Those who do holiday in an amber list country will need a negative Covid test for re-entry into England. Travellers will also be required to quarantine at home for 10 days, taking a PCR test on or before day two and on or after day eight of their return.

Rory Boland, Which Travel editor, said: “The reopening of international travel is at risk of descending into farce with the government and companies issuing contradictory advice about where travellers can take a holiday.

“The government is telling people not to travel to amber list destinations, but with many holiday firms selling trips to those countries regardless, people will assume they can. Those who feel they can not go on holiday against government advice, including those with bookings from last year, are also likely to struggle to get their money back, with most travel companies refusing refunds unless the holiday is cancelled.

“It would be completely unacceptable to see a repeat of last year’s disastrous situation where millions of holidaymakers were forced to foot the bill for travel chaos caused by Covid. This year there really is no excuse – the government and holiday firms must provide clarity over what travel is safe and permitted, and ensure that people who don’t want to travel against government advice are entitled to a refund.”

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