Politics

Green and Amber travel rules scrapped for double jabbed

Grant Shapps clashes with Nick Ferrari over travel rules

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Double-jabbed travellers will no longer be hit by huge bills for ­coronavirus tests, saving families hundreds of pounds. Britons will also be free to travel to holiday favourite Turkey after it finally moves off the red list, the Daily Express understands. Ministers on the Covid Operations Committee are meeting this morning to sign off the changes.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps will announce the plans later in the day and set out when the changes will come into force.

The Government wants to simplify the system and cut the costs involved.

Expensive before and after PCR testing for fully vaccinated travellers is expected to be replaced with free lateral flow tests.

But restrictions will remain in place for passengers who have not been jabbed.

Earlier this week, Boris Johnson said the Government wanted to simplify the rules and make the “burdens of testing less onerous for those who are coming back into the country”.

The red “no-go” list currently includes 62 countries but that is expected to shrink slightly, with Turkey among the destinations being removed.

Coronavirus data analyst Tim White said: “The data firmly supports Turkey being removed as it has no threat of variants and a lot of genomic sequencing.”

Ministers are confident they can cut the red list countries because they have more detailed information about the impact of vaccines on coronavirus variants.

But travellers returning from destinations that remain on the list will still have to spend 11 nights in a quarantine hotel, at a potential cost of £2,285.

Mr White said variants of concern are likely to be the main factor in deciding which countries are still off-limits. He tipped Argentina, Bangladesh, Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Kenya, the Maldives, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, South Africa and Sri Lanka as possible destinations that could be lifted off the red list.

The Government has always insisted it is taking a “safe and cautious” approach to reopening international travel.

But the travel industry has been left struggling to survive as holidaymakers stayed at home rather than navigate the complicated and costly rules.

Experts said there have been around 50 updates to travel restrictions since July last year.

The autumn and winter seasons are popular times for city breaks and shorter holidays, but the cost of testing has put off many travellers.

Tourism bosses last night said cutting the bill for testing would be a major boost to the ­ailing sector as it tries to attract travellers back.

Martyn Sumners, executive director of specialist travel association AITO, said: “We hope very much that testing will now be reduced to an absolute minimum.

“The sheer cost of testing, and the fact that very few tests are analysed, means that it is money down the drain unnecessarily, and it has been a huge barrier to travel.

“The potential for quarantine on the return home has been another enormous concern for would-be travellers.

“Let’s get travel working again, keeping half a million Brits in employment, and give the British a chance to enjoy a welcome trip in Europe before the summer months come to an end. And we mustn’t forget how important the long-haul markets are, either.

“Let’s have a sensible approach to the safe reopening of travel worldwide. It is very long overdue.”

A spokesman from travel association ABTA said: “When the Government announces the strategic review of international travel, ABTA would like to see the end of the traffic light system.

“Instead, treat all destinations as open by default, the retention of a short red list only for the management of known variants of concern.”

Heathrow Airport said this week it has gone from being Europe’s busiest airport in 2019 to number 10 on the list, behind rivals in cities such as Amsterdam, Paris and Frankfurt.

But speculation that travel restrictions would be eased sent airline stocks soaring yesterday.

AJ Bell financial analyst Danni Hewson said: “The UK’s traffic light system has come in for ­considerable criticism from both industry bosses and consumers so it’s little wonder the speculation that it’s about to be scrapped has chimed with investors. October half-term is the next big opportunity for the travel sector and any changes that can make travelling less unsettling and testing less expensive will yield dividends.

“There are question marks about how far the Government will go, particularly when it comes to changing testing requirements.

“But even simplification of the basic no-go areas will go a long way towards shoring up confidence among families.”

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