Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock have sought to clarify the confusion over the “orange list” of countries, including most European destinations, to which travel is permitted but not encouraged.
The PM insisted that the position was “very clear” and that people should only travel to an Amber List country “for certain extreme circumstances, such as serious illness of a family member. “.
“You shouldn’t go to an Orange List country on vacation,” the prime minister told MPs.
Health Secretary Mr Hancock told a press conference in Downing Street: ‘We have made it clear that you should not go on holiday to an Orange or Red List country, but only to an Amber List country or a Red List country. exceptional circumstances. “
But Mr Hancock added “it is not necessarily necessary to ban everything” even if the government advises against it.
This week, Environment Secretary George Eustice said people could travel to Amber List countries to visit family or friends as long as they follow quarantine rules on their return. , while Welsh Secretary Simon Hart said “some people might think a vacation is essential” and therefore a valid reason to travel.
When asked by the Prime Minister, Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “The government has lost control of the message.”
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary said “most of the UK population don’t understand” the rules on travel to Orange List destinations, with people “booking en masse” to take vacations in the Orange List. places that are not on the green list this summer.
The airline’s general manager told ITV’s Peston: “People are ignoring the short-term restrictions and agreeing that they can fly safely in late June, July and August when the school holidays are over. arrive, and they literally book in their hundreds of thousands a day. “
The government came under pressure on its travel policy following the introduction of the traffic light system in England on Monday, with Scotland and Wales also implementing similar approaches.
Passengers arriving from Amber List countries must self-isolate for 10 days and pass two tests.
Mr Hancock said 30,000 home visits were made last week to make sure people are in quarantine.
In Brussels, EU ambassadors backed plans to allow vaccinated holidaymakers to visit the bloc this summer.
But Portugal is the only major EU destination currently on the government’s “green list” for holidays.
Mr Hancock said that “it’s a question for the EU what their international travel rules are” but “at the moment with our vaccination levels really good but not there yet, I think we are wise to take a cautious approach to international travel ”.
England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam said vaccines were not 100% effective and the first protective elements to fail were the vaccine’s ability to prevent infection and reduce the transmission.
“It’s a tricky nuance in terms of the argument that ‘just because you’ve been given vaccines it’s completely safe to go abroad,’ he said.
Professor Van-Tam also pointed out that parts of Europe had “quite high levels of disease activity” compared to the UK and it was about “jumping into a pond with a shark in it. or jumping into a pond with 100 sharks in it – it changes the likelihood of you getting bitten.
The EU decision was a “fair ambition” and a “good aspiration”, but “we have to act very carefully,” he said.
George Morgan-Grenville, founder and CEO of travel company Red Savannah, said the industry is “facing disaster” and cannot understand why it “has to bear the brunt of such confused and mixed messages from ministers “.
He told BBC Radio 4 today: “The idea that people who don’t go on vacation will kill all viruses is absurd.
The rules for international travel for England, Wales and Scotland are broadly similar.
In Northern Ireland, travel to the Common Travel Area – which includes the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man – for visits to family and friends will be permitted from May 24.
But Stormont’s executive has not made a decision on resuming international pleasure travel from Northern Ireland.
In other developments:
– Three people have died in Scotland due to side effects from the coronavirus vaccine, out of 2.81 million who received at least one dose on April 30.
– The Prime Minister said there is growing confidence that the vaccines used will work against all variants, including the highly transmissible Indian strain.
– David Greenhalgh, Tory leader of the Bolton Council, warned there was a “danger of unrest” if local lockdowns were imposed to curb the spread of the Indian variant.
– Some 2,967 cases of the B1617.2 variant have been identified, against 2,323 reported on Monday.
– There are 25 people at Bolton hospital with Covid – the majority are unvaccinated, nearly 90% have yet to receive two vaccines.
– Three more people died within 28 days after testing positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday, bringing the UK total to 127,694.
– As of 9 a.m. as of Wednesday, there had been 2,696 other lab-confirmed cases in the UK.
– Immunization figures as of May 18 show that 36,985,505 people received a first dose of – an increase of 174,100 the day before – while 20,870,453 had both injections, an increase of 324,001.
The travel rules aim to prevent the importation of coronavirus cases – and new variants – into the UK.
But the broadcast of the Indian variant highlighted the problem, with shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth telling Sky News that “our borders have been about as secure as a sieve throughout this crisis.”