Holiday travel rules in full as ministers consider 'amber watchlist' for Spain

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is expected to deliver an update on which countries are safe to visit on Thursday – and which face tougher restrictions on travel

Holidaymakers will get an update on which countries are safe to visit this week
Holidaymakers will get an update on which countries are safe to visit this week

Brits face fresh uncertainty over holiday plans as ministers plot an overhaul of international travel rules this week.

Senior ministers and officials will pore over the Covid data in the coming days ahead of the next update of the traffic light regime for foreign travel.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is expected to announce which countries are safe to visit on Thursday – and which could face tougher quarantine rules.

Any changes would be likely to come into force on Monday, August 9.

Speculation is mounting that France could be moved from the amber-plus category, which could be axed altogether.

But there are fears Spain could be switched to a new “amber watch list” – deterring British families from flying to the Costas.

Fears are mounting that tougher quarantine rules could be applied to Spain


AFP via Getty Images)

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In a sign of conflict in the Cabinet over travel, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has reportedly told Boris Johnson that the UK’s current border restrictions were “out of step with our international competitors”.

He warned that the curbs were having a damaging effect on jobs, amid mounting fears for the tourism and hospitality industries.

A source told the Sunday Times said: “Rishi has called time on the travel restrictions.”

It comes after major changes to the rules around foreign travel in recent weeks – and a lot of speculation about what could be coming this week.

Here’s what we know so far.

No quarantine for EU/US arrivals from Monday

From 4am on Monday, mandatory self isolation rules have been eased for fully-vaccinated arrivals from Europe and the US.

People who received their jabs abroad were not included in the relaxation of quarantine for fully vaccinated travellers returning from amber list countries.

But from Monday, expats who were vaccinated abroad will now be able to avoid isolation.

Arrivals will need to prove their jab has been approved by EU or US regulators to prevent lower quality vaccines impacting on the UK’s battle against the virus.

Jabs like Chinese Sinopharm and the Russian Sputnik vaccine will not be allowed as they are not approved by the European Medicines Agency.

Europeans will be asked to show their EU Digital Covid Certificate, while American arrivals will need show the US CDC card.

Arrivals will still need to do a pre-departure Covid test and take a PCR test on the second day of their stay in England.

However travellers from France continue to be excluded due to the fears over cases of the Beta variant.

Double jabbed Brits – and under 18s – have been allowed to avoid self-isolation on return from amber list countries since July 19.

A dozen countries could be added to the green list

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is expected to give an update on which countries can be added to the green list – and which ones may be removed – on Thursday.

The announcement, which comes as part of the regular three week reviews of the system, is being closely watched as Brits jet off for their summer breaks.

About a dozen nations could be added to the green list for quarantine-free travel for all.

There are growing hopes that Germany and Italy are among countries which may be deemed safe for travel without passengers having to self-isolate on their return.

Analyst Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, predicted that potential additions could also include Bosnia, Canada, Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, San Marino, Slovakia and Slovenia.

Italy is currently on the amber list for travel



But Government insiders have stressed it is too early to say which countries could move.

Under the current rules, people visits green list countries can avoid self isolating for 10 days on their return to England.

Visitors to amber list countries who aren’t fully vaccinated must quarantine for 10 days, unless they pay for a private PCR test on day 5 under the Test to Release scheme.

Red list visitors must stay in a Government-backed quarantine hotel for 10 days at a cost of £1,750 per person.

France could move off amber plus list

The UK sparked a diplomatic row with Paris last month by unexpectedly moving France into a new “amber plus” category.

The move meant France was excluded from the quarantine exemptions for fully vaccinated travellers – so holidaymakers have to isolate even if they are double jabbed.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab sparked confusion by claiming the decision was taken due to the prevalence of the Beta variant in Reunion island, which is 6,000 miles away from mainland France.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps insisted that there were cases of the variant in mainland France but hinted that the country could move out of the category as prevalence was falling.

But new amber watchlist could scupper holidays to Spain

Mainland Spain, the Balearics and the Canary Islands are currently on the amber list, which means that vaccinated travellers can avoid quarantining.

But if it is shifted onto the amber plus list like France, all travellers will have to isolate regardless of vaccination status.

Another measure being considered is the creation of a new “amber watchlist” which could replace the amber plus category.

Any destination flagged on the watchlist could move from amber to red with short notice, meaning families abroad could be forced to undergo hotel quarantine on their return to England, at a cost of £1,750 a head.

A Whitehall source told the Daily Mail: “You would have to be crackers to book a holiday to a place knowing that it could go on to the red list at any moment.”

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab refused to rule out the creation of a new watchlist when pressed on the issue in recent days.

There is already a green watchlist, which flags destinations that could move up to amber if the Covid situation becomes more concerning.

How are the traffic light categories decided?

Experts in the Joint Biosecurity Centre offer advice on which countries should be red, amber or green based on a number of factors.

These include:

  • Vaccination rates
  • The rate of infection
  • Genomic surveillance capability
  • Variants of concern


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