Another week, another traffic light update.
We’re all used to it, by now. As per the Government’s own timeline for the opening up of travel (a separate roadmap to all other national restrictions), we can expect to hear from the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps this Thursday.
If previous weeks are anything to go by, at some point on Thursday afternoon the Government will reveal what changes (if any) will be made to our holiday traffic lights. The changes will then come into effect from Tuesday 4am the following week. The next update after this one is scheduled for July 19, and the one after that on August 9.
As it stands, the UK only has 11 countries on its green list, after Portugal was demoted from green to amber earlier in June – to the disappointment of thousands of holidaymakers, and particularly those who had to rush home at short notice. Only two of those green-listed destinations – Gibraltar and Iceland – allow British travellers in without prohibitive restrictions.
The majority of countries and overseas territories are classified as amber (167, on our last count), including the holiday stalwarts of Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy, the USA and France. This means you need to quarantine for 10 days on your return, with two tests and the option to ‘release’ after a test on day five. However, these quarantine rules could be waived for fully vaccinated travellers as early as August, reports suggest. This rule change could be revealed on Thursday at the update from Grant Shapps.
The red list is largely made up of African and South American countries. Turkey, the UAE and the Seychelles are the main holiday destinations which will incur a hotel quarantine on your return, along with South Africa.
So which countries (if any) are likely to move up and down the traffic lights this week? We crunch the data.
How does the Government decide the traffic lights?
While we do not know the exact numbers that qualify a country for red, amber or green status, we do know that the Government uses the following criteria to decide the traffic lights:
The percentage of a country’s population that have been vaccinated
The rate of infection
The prevalence of variants of concern
The country’s access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing
Which destinations could go green?
What are the restrictions on green list arrivals?
People coming from "green list" countries have to provide a negative Covid test within 72 hours of travelling home, and then pay for a PCR test on or before their second day back in the UK. There is no need to enter a mandatory 10-day quarantine if returning from a green-listed destination.
Which countries are currently green?
Israel and Jerusalem
South George and the South Sandwich Islands
St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
So will any more countries go green this week?
Sadly, nobody in the travel industry is expecting a bumper green list update on Thursday, especially after the Prime Minister said on Monday: “I want to stress that this is going to be – whatever happens – a difficult year for travel.
"There will be hassle, there will be delays, I am afraid, because the priority has got to be to keep the country safe and stop the virus coming back in."
With the UK Government delaying the end of Covid restrictions to July 19 – due to the increasing rates of the Delta Variant, which originated in India – the optics of “opening up the borders” is clearly not a particularly appealing option for the Prime Minister, even if the science does suggest it is now safe to do so. New data shows that only 0.4% of arrivals from amber destinations tested positive for Covid-19.
However, according to the Government’s own traffic lights criteria (see above) there are a number of destinations that should be scribbled in large marker pen on Grant Shapps’ whiteboard. Media minister John Whittingdale has sparked some hope among holidaymakers, he told Sky News the list would be reviewed "later this week to make revisions to the green list, and I hope that we can put more countries on to it" – here's hoping.
Here are the countries that, one would hope, are at least on the watchlist for promotion to ‘green’ this week.
Cases per 100,000: 2.94
Second doses given: 67.41%
The Mediterranean island nation has twice missed out on the ‘green list’, despite its low cases and strong vaccination drive, and will be hoping to finally turn green in this week’s announcement. Why? There were only eight cases of Covid-19 reported over the last seven days (that’s 2.94 per 100,000 over a week) and a whopping 67.41 per cent of the population has been double jabbed. The UK, by comparison, is at 57.25 per cent of adults with two doses.
Malta’s foreign minister, Evarist Bartolo, had some strong words to say last time Malta failed to go green. He wrote on Facebook: "The [British government] is ignoring scientific advice. It has taken a political decision not to allow travel anywhere, despite the pressure it faces from airlines, tourism operators and the people in general." If Malta does not go ‘green’, surely nowhere will.
Cases per 100,000: 23.92
Second doses given: 56.12%
Based on data alone, the USA should surely be turning green in Thursday’s announcement. Cases have dropped across the country, and the second doses are going up by the day.
However, the latest reports suggest that a UK/US travel corridor is more likely to come later in the summer.
Dr Anthony Fauci, America’s chief medical advisor, told ITV news: “'I think once they get more and more people vaccinated and get the people who've gotten a single dose to make sure they get their second dose, I think the UK is going to be in a very favourable position by the time we get to the end of the summer.”
A joint travel task force is allegedly working on a UK/US travel corridor as you read this, and is due to report back next month.
Cases per 100,000: 14.18
Second doses given: 26.59%
A glimpse of Croatia’s daily case rate shows that its second wave is well and truly over. On Sunday, only 58 people in Croatia tested positive for Covid-19. The seven-day count is 582 cases, amounting to 14.18 per 100,000 – a fraction of the UK’s current infection rate. What’s more, case numbers are continuing to drop – down 38 per cent on last week. With a vaccination campaign picking up momentum (41.89 per cent have received a first jab) Croatia will be hopeful to be green by the school summer holidays at the very latest.
Cases per 100,000: 12.01
Second doses given: 30.68%
The country that was at one point the epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak in the early days of the pandemic is now in a much better position. Its weekly Covid-19 case rate is 12.01 per 100,000, considerably lower than that of the UK. The vaccination drive is picking up pace, too, with 30 per cent of the population having received both doses of the jab.
The bad news, however, is that just this weekend Italy imposed tighter restrictions on UK arrivals. Everyone arriving in the country from the UK must enter a five-day quarantine and take mandatory tests prior to and on arrival.
Cases per 100,000: 22
Second doses given: 28.1%
Grant Shapps has confirmed that islands will be considered independently of their mainland counterparts, meaning the Balearics should be a strong contender for ‘green’ status in the next update. With cases at 22 per 100,000 and a quarter of the population double-jabbed, the island chain is now in a stronger position than the Canary Islands.
A number of other destinations should, by the Government’s own standards, be considered for the green list, according to a data analysis by Paul Charles of the PC Agency. These include Finland, Poland, Morocco, Grenada, Mexico, Canada, Barbados, Germany and Jamaica.
Which destinations could turn amber?
Cases are rising or remain high in South Africa, the UAE and the Seychelles, making it unlikely that any of these popular holiday destinations will turn amber in this update. There is one destination, however, that may be relieved of its ‘hotel quarantine’ status.
Cases per 100,000: 47.08
Second doses given: 23.08%
The most popular holiday destination on the red list will be hoping to turn amber, either in this update or by the end of July. Cases in Turkey have plummeted. A peak of 63,000 daily cases in April have now dropped to 5,000 per day. This brings the seven-day case rate to 47.08 per 100,000 – less than half of the UK’s (106.65). Nearly half of the population (46 per cent) has received a first dose, and 23.08 per cent have been given a second dose.
Which destinations could turn red?
It is likely the Government will be keen to display progress in this Thursday’s announcement, rather than another backwards step, so it is not anticipated that a host of countries will be demoted to the red list. This is bolstered by the recent revelation that – of the 24,511 red-list arrivals tested since May 20 – only 435 (1.8 per cent) tested positive. Of those 435 cases, 341 were coming in from Pakistan, Bangladesh and India, which are all already on the red list.