Boris Johnson has signaled that he will be abandoning plans for an “amber watchlist” of countries to travel abroad – just hours after a junior minister confirmed the idea was being considered.
The Prime Minister said he wanted to see a system that was “as simple and user-friendly as possible, a clear indication that there will be no additional categories in the traffic light system.
Earlier, digital minister Matt Warman said there would be “a spectrum of countries from green to red,” each with different levels of risk for vacationers or those visiting family and friends.
An “amber watchlist” that would alert a country that it could turn red quickly with a mandatory 10-day hotel quarantine would be better than “just three cut and dried categories” or green, yellow and red, Warman said.
However, Johnson appears to have given in to the growing anger of Tory MPs and the travel industry, who warned that adding categories would create further confusion and costs for those planning to travel abroad.
When asked if he personally supports an “amber watchlist” category, Johnson told reporters, “What I want to see is something that is as simple and user-friendly as possible for people to use.”
His words were quickly interpreted as a death knell for the idea, as the prospect of six different traffic light colors was ridiculed: green, green watch list, amber, amber plus, amber watch list, and red.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps will post his latest three-week update on the travel list this Thursday when France is likely to be removed from the amber plus category, which even forces people with double thrusts into 5-day home isolation.
As Labor pounded the Tories over the “pingdemic” and the chaos of last-minute changes to travel rules, the government separately announced that it would optimize the NHS Covid app to encourage fewer people to self-isolate.
“I understand that people care a lot about their vacation, people want to go abroad, I understand how much people plan and prepare for summer vacation,” said the Prime Minister.
“But we also have to remember that this is still a dangerous virus and we have to try to stop variants from entering, stop importing variants from abroad, so we have to take a balanced approach.”
According to the current rules, traveling from a country on the green list is quarantine-free, while traveling from a country on the yellow list is quarantine-free for all persons who are double-jabbed.
There is already a green watchlist category, which means that a country can be added to the amber list for a short time, but are excluded from amber trips with double stitches
“I don’t accept that it’s so complicated that people can’t use their common sense,” Warman told SkyNews.
“Telling people that when a country is on a watchlist there is a risk of going from green to yellow or amber to red, for example, seems to give really important information to me when they are making significant financial decisions because of course people like to go on vacation when they can. “
When asked about the confusion caused by the proposed six different categories for countries, Warman replied, “I think you will hear more from the Minister of Transport about the details later this week and I didn’t mean to pre-empt these announcements, but what They describe is a spectrum of countries that ranges from green to red.
“And I think giving people a hint that it’s not just three cut and dried categories, it’s giving people more information, it’s helpful information, and it allows them to make some really important decisions.
“The point of the watchlist you are referring to is to try to give people a sense of the direction a country is headed in and might want to go on vacation.”
But Huw Merriman, Tory chairman of the Commons Transport Committee, told BBC Radio 4’s The Westminster Hour: “An amber watchlist is viewed as a massive red flag that is likely to cause bookings in these countries to collapse on that watchlist.
“From my point of view, we no longer need uncertainty, complexity or fear for the passengers or this ailing sector. It just needs clarity. I urge the government not to do anything with it. “
The Sunday Times reported this weekend that Chancellor Rishi Sunak wrote to Boris Johnson warning that UK entry and exit rules “are not keeping up with our international competitors” and are damaging the economy.