Balearic Islands to be added to England’s Covid amber list
The Spanish Balearic Islands will be added to England’s travel amber list from next Monday, meaning some passengers arriving from the popular set of holiday destinations will have to quarantine for up to 10 days.
The update to the government’s traffic light system that grades countries according to their Covid case, vaccine and variant rate is coming into force at the same time as a major overhaul to the quarantine rules.
From 19 July, those returning home from amber list countries who have had two vaccines do not need to isolate, so long as they get a negative test result within two days of landing. But everyone who has not received both doses – disproportionately likely to be young people who were offered the vaccine later – will have to stay at home for up to 10 days, or be released after day five using the “test to release” system.
In a boost for some travellers, two destinations – Bulgaria and Hong Kong – are being added to the green list, meaning there will be no need to quarantine regardless of whether or not people have been fully vaccinated. Croatia and Taiwan are going on the green watchlist – designed to give people some notice a country might be moved down – meaning they can also avoid isolation.
However, others will be disappointed that four destinations – Cuba, Indonesia, Myanmar and Sierra Leone – are moving on to the red list, meaning travel for all apart from British residents and nationals is banned.
The Balearic Islands of Ibiza, Mallorca, Menorca and Formentera will be downgraded from the green watchlist to amber, along with the British Virgin Islands.
Given health is a devolved matter, quarantine policies are decided by the government of each of the four nations. Wales advises people against travelling abroad but says those who do should follow England’s traffic light system. Scotland and Northern Ireland have yet to announce their own changes.
Summary of changes
Going amber: Balearic Islands, British Virgin Islands
Going green: Croatia, Bulgaria, Hong Kong, Taiwan
Going red: Cuba, Indonesia, Myanmar, Sierra Leone
The Guardian understands that ministers also gathered to discuss moving France to the red list on Wednesday, due to concern about variant cases, but decided against it, given the significant ramifications it would have.
A source said that because of the relaxation of rules for amber list arrivals, “the red list now is the main buffer”, meaning it is likely more people will be faced with the hotel quarantine requirement that costs £1,750.
Earlier, the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, sought to calm nerves that an AstraZeneca vaccine produced by the Serum Institute in India, given to up to five million people but not yet accepted by the European Medicines Agency, should still be taken as proof of inoculation by EU countries.
It followed a report in the Daily Telegraph that two Britons who had the Serum-made jab were denied access to the flight they booked from Manchester airport to Malta.
Shapps said that after lobbying by the British government, Malta had amended its travel advice to let anyone who had been given an AstraZeneca jab into the country “without being turned away”.
He said the UK’s medicines regulator had “been very clear that it doesn’t matter whether the AstraZeneca you have is made here or the Serum Institute in India, it is absolutely the same product, it provides exactly the same levels of protection from the virus”.
Luke Evans, a Tory MP who has been working in the NHS helping to vaccinate people, said at the start of July he had one of the vaccines produced by Serum himself and had vaccinated “many people” with it.
He urged the new health secretary, Sajid Javid, to explain how he planned to resolve the problem and said he hoped it was “purely a bureaucratic issue”, to which he was told that “all doses used in the UK have been subject to very rigorous safety and quality checks, including individual batch testing and physical site inspections”.