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Holiday chaos amid Covid confusion – clearly the govt hasn’t the foggiest what it’s talking about
People are now allowed legally to go on holidays abroad, but mixed messages from government ministers are causing confusion about whether people should be booking their summer breaks.
Top UK holiday destinations, such as Spain, France and Italy, are currently on the amber list, meaning travellers must undergo a mandatory 10-day quarantine and two Covid tests on their return.
But ministers have been making conflicting statements on whether people are actually allowed to go on holiday to amber list locations, despite travel to them not being illegal.
In a single day in May, the prime minister, the environment secretary, the Welsh Secretary and a health minister all gave different interpretations of the rules.
On the morning of May 18, environment secretary George Eustice mistakenly told BBC Radio 4 that the public could go to amber list destinations to visit friends or family, as long as they quarantine on return.
“We don’t want to stop travel altogether and the reason, as Matt Hancock set out, that we have the amber list is there will be reasons why people feel they need to travel, either to visit family or indeed to visit friends,” Eustice told the BBC.
“They can travel to those countries but they then have to observe quarantine when they return and have two tests after returning. So people can travel to those areas, yes, but they will then have to subject themselves to the quarantine requirements on return.”
"We don’t want to stop travel altogether and the reason, as Matt Hancock set out, that we have the amber list is there will be reasons why people feel they need to travel, either to visit family or indeed to visit friends"
George Eustice, environment secretary
PM forced to correct Eustice statement
Just a few hours later, Boris Johnson was forced to correct Eustice’s statements and issue advice not to travel to amber list countries on holiday.
“I think it’s very important for people to grasp what an amber list country is: it is not somewhere where you should be going on holiday, let me be very clear about that,” Johnson said.
“And if people do go to an amber list country, they absolutely have to for some pressing family or urgent business reason, then please bear in mind that you will have to self-isolate, you’ll have to take tests and do your passenger locator form and all the rest of it.”
Johnson’s spokesman then told reporters that people should only go on holidays to green list destinations.
Bizarrely this was soon contradicted by health minister James Bethell, who said that “travelling is not for this year. Please stay in this country.”
It was then Welsh secretary Simon Hart’s turn to add to the chaotic confusion.
"I think it’s very important for people to grasp what an amber list country is: it is not somewhere where you should be going on holiday, let me be very clear about that"
Boris Johnson, prime minister
In an interview with Times Radio, Hart said the government’s message was for people to use “common sense”.
“I think some people will think a holiday is essential. I can think of a quite a lot of people who do think that.”
At the current time, there are 12 green list destinations, including Portugal and Gibraltar, where quarantine is not required for returning holidaymakers.
While the reopening of borders is good news, Unite, which represents airline and airport workers, said the slow pace of progress and confusion emanating from government means the stricken aviation sector needs support.
“From the relatively small number of countries on the list it is apparent that the aviation industry is still heavily constrained by the profoundly damaging impacts of the pandemic,” commented Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland.
“Transparency and support from the government is needed if the UK’s civil air transport sector is to have a sustainable recovery.
“Government must also ensure that airlines, airports and other travel businesses can understand how changes in quarantine rules will take place so they can plan and prepare.
“Lowering prohibitive costs for Covid tests for families wishing to leave the country for holidays is also a necessary to deliver travel for all and not just the wealthy.
“Finally, along with other support measures, the government must also put in place a potential extension of the job retention scheme for the aviation industry past September, should such safety restrictions on travel remain.”
"Transparency and support from the government is needed if the UK’s civil air transport sector is to have a sustainable recovery. Along with other support measures, the government must also put in place a potential extension of the job retention scheme for the aviation industry past September, should such safety restrictions on travel remain"
Diana Holland, Unite AGS
Information correct at time of publication
By Ryan Fletcher