Only a handful of countries were expected to move from amber — requiring quarantine after arrival in the UK — to green. They were not thought to include popular summer destinations such as Spain, Greece, Italy and France.
There were also growing fears that Portugal — the only mass-market destination currently rated as green — could be downgraded today or in the near future to amber or put on a warning list because of growing cases of coronavirus variants.
Travel industry bosses said the traffic light revisions were causing chaos that was made worse by leaks about which countries would have their status changed. Noel Josephides, chairman of specialist operator Sunvil, said: “It’s terrible. It’s all a nightmare. All these leaks are destroying confidence, nothing concrete ever comes out.
“Today it’s the Indian variant, tomorrow it will be another variant, then it will be another one. But the fact is that 75 per cent of the population have had one jab and 50 per cent have had both, so it’s totally ridiculous that we are back where we were last year, with still so much uncertainty.
“We in the travel industry are turning into an endangered species. We are convinced that the Government is deliberately setting out to destroy confidence in travelling abroad so that people will spend their money in the UK.”
Julian Abbott, managing director of South Woodford-based Abbotts Travel, said he was mainly dealing with cancellations and postponements because of the constant shifting of advice. He told Sky News: “Day to day it’s a nightmare what with the red, amber and green. If I had my way it would all be red throughout until we had more clarity.
“So people can secure a booking in July or August they are booking three or four destinations under our ATOL, then holding them as long as possible so we don’t have to take any money from the client so they are not financially committed.” There were also fears that Britain’s Covid testing infrastructure would not be able to cope with a large increase in the number of travellers heading abroad.
Rory Boland, editor of Which Travel magazine, told Sky: “If we see countries such as Spain or Greece, where hundreds of thousands of people will want to go turning up on the green list it is very hard to see how the system is going to cope.” Destinations that are thought likely to move from amber to green today include Malta, Finland, Grenada and Antigua. There was also some hope that Greek islands such as Zante, Rhodes and Kos could also go green.
Home Office minister Victoria Atkins said the public should “exercise their common sense” about travelling abroad. She told Times Radio: “We all want to get back to normality, pre-pandemic normality. But I think (we) all understand we’ve got to take careful steps to do that.”
Labour today called for the amber category to be scrapped altogether “because of the huge confusion it is creating and the huge number of travellers coming through our airports”.
Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme there should be a “small green list”, but amber list countries should be put on to the red list.
Mr Johnson yesterday warned that the Government would have “no hesitation” over moving countries off the green list if necessary ahead of today’s recommendations from the Joint Biosecurity Centre.
The Government has urged people to avoid non-essential travel to amber and red countries. Those returning from amber list locations — which include Spain, France, Italy and Greece— must quarantine at home for 10 days and take two tests. People returning to the UK from a red country are required to spend 11 nights in a quarantine hotel, at a cost of £1,750 for solo travellers. It has been reported that Britain’s ambassador to Spain has urged travel bosses in the country to be patient over the return of large number of UK holidaymakers.