The government has been accused of a “double standard” on international travel after it was announced Ibiza, Mallorca and Menorca would be added to the amber travel list due to a surge in coronavirus cases, little more than a fortnight after they went green.
The change for those returning to Scotland, England and Wales from Spain’s Balearic Islands will take place at 4am on Monday, potentially sparking a rush for holidaymakers to return to avoid the need to quarantine.
The Scottish Government says the decision was taken on a four nations basis, with the British Virgin Islands also removed from the green list.
Johan Lundgren, chief executive of EasyJet, noted Covid-19 infection rates were rising in the UK but remained lower in much of Europe.
“So we cannot understand why the government is going to allow people to go to a nightclub – without a mask or social distancing – and yet is not comfortable with people going to the beaches of Europe, where the infection rates are lower than in the UK,” Mr Lundgren said.
“Yet again we see this double standard where travel is treated differently to the domestic economy.”
Younger adults will mainly be impacted because the change coincides with the end of the need to quarantine for fully-vaccinated UK residents and under 18s when returning from amber list nations.
Airlines UK chief executive Tim Alderslade said the move reinforced the belief the government’s framework for international travel “is not working as it was designed to”.
“While the vaccination programme is permitting a full reopening of the domestic economy, international travel between safe countries – with low infections and high vaccination rates – is still being portrayed as though it is a serious danger to public health.
“Moving countries between the tiers like this is shattering consumer trust during an already unpredictable booking season. It is time the Government implemented a consistent and transparent travel policy, rather than the current rollercoaster ride of changes, which is condemning international travel to the status of second-class citizen.”
A spokesperson for ABTA – The Travel Association said adding the Balearics to the amber list was a step back for the travel industry.
“Thousands of travel jobs and businesses are in desperate need of a successful summer season, and this further emphasises the urgent need for tailored financial support for a sector that has struggled to make any meaningful revenue for almost 18 months now,” they said.
“Helpfully, from Monday, fully-vaccinated travellers returning to England, Scotland and Wales from amber list countries will no longer need to self-isolate or take an additional test on day eight, so this will minimise the disruption for vaccinated holidaymakers, but quarantine for non-vaccinated travellers remains a significant obstacle.
“Consumer confidence is essential if the industry is to trade its way out of this crisis, so the government must be more transparent about the criteria being used to move countries between the green, amber and red lists to allow travel businesses and customers alike to plan ahead.
“The government also needs to continue to capitalise on the successful vaccine rollout by expanding the green list in line with scientific evidence and reducing the need for and cost of testing, which is a significant barrier to travel for many people. Sufficient border control resource must also be provided at our ports and airports to help make travel as smooth as possible.”
Meanwhile, Bulgaria and Hong Kong will be added to the green list – meaning there is no requirement to isolate on return for any travellers regardless of the vaccination status.
Croatia and Taiwan will be added to the “green watchlist”, meaning there is no need for anyone to quarantine but they are at risk of going amber.
Cuba, Indonesia, Myanmar and Sierra Leone will be added to the red list requiring 10 days of isolation in a quarantine hotel.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said measures for the Balearics were being upgraded due to case rates having doubled since they were added to the green list on June 30.