Fully bitten travelers returning to England and Wales from Orange List countries, including France, were to be exempt from quarantine from Monday, July 19.
However, shortly after 8 p.m. on Friday, the government said the new rule would not apply to France due to concerns over the spread of the beta variant, first identified in South Africa, sending the plans hundreds of thousands of vacationers in chaos.
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The new category for France has been dubbed the “orange list plus”, now coexisting with the green, amber and red list categories of the government’s traffic light system.
There are now fears that Spain, Greece, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany are all facing the same thing.
Paul Charles, managing director of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said is: “It’s now known as an Amber Plus list whether they like it or not.
“France is one of the big three countries that we visit every year and I think the concern is that the government will look at Spain and Greece and potentially add them to the amber plus category. When you look at the latest tables, the Balearics have very high rates, why doesn’t the Government care about the Balearics as much as it does France? I think we can see other changes as countries see higher infection rates. “
Data analyst Tim White tweeted that Luxembourg “has a very high incidence of the Brazilian variant (Gamma)” and its neighbors must risk having similar measures imposed on them.
He wrote: “Belgium, Netherlands and Germany must also be at risk, low incidence of variants in previous data, but could change.
“The obvious concern is in high infection areas like Spain and Greece – I’ve had so many questions about this already. The problem is (as usual) transparency. We do not know if this category is only for variants of concern (VOCs) or high incidence only. “
Mr White told The Independent: “I have not seen any evidence that Spain or Greece are affected by new or dangerous variants. But the sometimes haphazard way in which this government has acted with regard to travel does not inspire me with confidence.
Some 3.4% of the cases recorded in France over the past four weeks were the beta variant, the BBC reported citing GISAID, an open source global database.
However, French MEP Véronique Trillet-Lenoir told BBC Radio 4 Today program that it was “difficult to understand” the movement, because the Beta variant is “not at all present” in metropolitan France, the cases of France being in overseas territories such as Reunion in the ‘Indian Ocean.
Mr Charles said: ‘The (UK) government always seems to find a variant that suits their decision making, even though there is no hard evidence. So we were told about the Nepalese variant, what happened to that? Now we are told that the Beta variant is strong in France, but the French say it is not in mainland France, it is in Reunion, or in the small French islands.
“I urge the government to release the data and show the British people all the evidence they have because I don’t think people believe it. “
Previously, the government had shifted Portugal from green to amber in the short term and this week the Balearic Islands were quickly moved from the green watch list to orange.
Mr. Charles lambasted the government for creating a “hoof policy”.
He said: “This will put another nail in the coffin of summer travel. It is a terrible political decision.
“It smacks of a lack of strategy, it’s extraordinary to make such a gesture on a Friday night just before a lot of people go to France on a Saturday.
“Ministers have promised a week’s notice before making any changes in the past, they have again broken that promise.
“This is a classic example of the government playing and playing with people’s livelihoods because a lot of people are saving money to book and go on vacation or to visit family.
“They put the UK consumer in a worse situation with a vaccine than we had last summer without a vaccine.
“We were told the vaccines would work. So will the government now come forward and admit that vaccines don’t work? If they don’t work, the government must tell the British people. Because if they are working, you don’t need to set up a quarantine from France or other countries. “