The government’s red list travel policy has been branded “ridiculous” following reports of Britons flying home via Turkey to avoid quarantine costs.
According to the BBC, some travellers returning from red list countries, usually those with high coronavirus rates, are opting to detour so that they don’t have to pay expensive hotel costs once back in the UK.
Stephen Reicher, a professor of social psychology and a member of the Sage subcommittee advising on behavioural science, criticised the government’s policy for allowing the loophole.
He tweeted: “Well surprise surprise! Of course the travel policy is ridiculous when you can go to a red list country and fly back via a green list country, or go to a resort in a green list country where you mix with other tourists from red list countries.”
British citizens who have visited a country on the red list in the last 10 days must pay to stay in a government-approved quarantine hotel.
The cost for a single adult is £1,750, while it would cost £3,700 for a family of four with teenage children to stay at the hotel.
Travellers returning from countries not on the list must isolate for 10 days at home.
Watch: India added to UK travel red list as COVID cases spike
The BBC reports that some travellers returning from countries including Pakistan and India – where coronavirus rates and deaths have spiked dramatically in recent weeks – are flying to Istanbul, Turkey, to stay at hotels for a cheaper cost.
They are then flying back to the UK from Turkey – which is not on the red list – and avoiding the need to pay to stay at a quarantine hotel.
Travel agent Ascher Khawaja, from Bradford, told the BBC that some of his customers “can’t afford to come back”.
Mohammad Saad, a businessman from Bradford who flew to Pakistan on 23 March to attend his nephew’s funeral, was due to fly home on 10 April – the day after Pakistan was added to the red list.
He told the BBC that he flew to Istanbul and paid £450 to stay for 10 days with his teenage son when he couldn't change their flights.
He said: "It's like an extra holiday. Then you can fly back into the UK from Istanbul without any hotel quarantine.”
Yahoo News UK has contacted the Department for Health and Social Care and the Foreign Office for a comment.
There are currently 40 countries on the UK red list, including India, Brazil, Kenya, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates.
The UK government website says that if you have been in or through any of the red list countries in the previous 10 days, you will be refused entry to the UK.
It adds that if you are a British or Irish national, or you have residence rights in the UK, you will be able to enter but must quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10 days.
The ban on foreign holidays is expected to be lifted for people in England from 17 May as part of the next easing of coronavirus restrictions.
A risk-based traffic light system will be introduced, with different rules for returning travellers depending on which list their destination is on.
People arriving from a green location will not have quarantine, while those returning from somewhere on the amber list must self-isolate for at least five days.
Watch: How England will leave lockdown