Pressure is mounting on the prime minister to radically redefine restrictions on overseas travel next week, in time for the final weeks of the summer vacation.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak made an unprecedented intervention ahead of a crucial meeting on Thursday, writing to the Prime Minister to demand that the UK change its quarantine policy.
From August 16, fully vaccinated travelers from England, as well as children, will no longer need to self-quarantine upon their return from Orange List countries, although many may still choose to avoid holidays abroad due to the risk of sudden imposition of quarantine rules.
France has already been placed in an ‘amber plus’ category, which means home quarantine is still required for returning travelers.
Government sources have said France is likely to be removed from the Orange List in an announcement to be made on Thursday and which will go into effect the following Monday, August 9. However, Spain – where beta cases have risen 14.2% in the past four weeks – is at risk of being on the ‘amber-plus’ list.
Sunak wrote to Boris Johnson ahead of Thursday’s meeting, reported by The Sunday Times, and said UK border policy was “out of step with our international competitors” and warned that there was little time to save the summer for the tourism and hospitality sectors.
The Chancellor is also said to be concerned about how travel rules are hampering trade deals with America. There are still significant restrictions on entry into the United States, imposed by President Joe Biden.
Discussions are underway on creating a watchlist for amber countries once the quarantine requirement is fully lifted for vaccinated travelers – which could mean new quarantine measures are imposed. Spain, as well as Greece, is believed to be at risk due to cases of the beta variant.
A No 10 source said it was far too early to call Thursday on what data from the Joint Biosecurity Center (JBC) would show. Johnson would support an easing of restrictions on travelers.
A Downing Street source said Johnson wanted travel to be made as easy as possible. “We haven’t even seen the JBC data yet. The Prime Minister was pushing for dual vaccine exemptions between the US and the EU. For this week, it is simply too early.
Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, last week defended the decision to put France on the ‘amber-plus’ list, after Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Thursday suggested the prevalence of the variant in Reunion Island. , a French overseas territory in the Indian Ocean, was partly to blame.
The JBC has also been accused by the Office for Statistics Regulation of “failing to make the data and sources clear” to prove the need for drastic action.