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The transport secretary Grant Shapps said changes to the government’s travel system means people can go on holiday this month “without looking over their shoulders the whole time”.
He confirmed the next update on which countries will be on the green, amber or red lists will not come for another three weeks, saying he hoped travellers could “have a pleasant and relaxing break”.
It comes after it was announced four countries are being removed from England’s red list while seven more, including Germany, are being added to the green list from 4am this Sunday.
India, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are being moved out of the highest-risk category meaning returning travellers will no longer have to quarantine for 11 nights in an approved government hotel.
People coming back from France who are fully vaccinated will no longer need to self-isolate, and Spain has avoided going on the red list, however holidaymakers are being urged to take a PCR test before they fly home.
Scotland and Northern Ireland have followed England in introducing the same travel relaxations, but the Welsh Government which has not, and continues to advise against “all but essential” travel.
Speaking about the changes Shapps told Times Radio: “We do want people to have a simplified traffic light system to be able to go away.
“Goodness knows people in this country deserve a break, having gone through the coronavirus, and we want people to be able to go away whether that’s for holiday or as mentioned friends, family, to do business, and not have to be looking over their shoulder.
“These are the changes for August… These changes are in place for three weeks, so that takes us through the month.
“I hope people have a pleasant and relaxing break. I’m only sorry that there are these additional measures that are required like still having to do some tests.
“But I think we’re all getting quite used to having to do those things now with coronavirus and I hope people enjoy their summers.”
When it was pointed out three weeks is still not a very long time, and many people have holidays booked in September and may still have to self-isolate on return, Shapps told BBC Radio 4: “It is a reality in this new world we are living with coronavirus.
“I think double vaccination is going to be a feature forever more and most countries, probably all countries, will require full vaccination in order for you to enter.”
He also told Sky News he “can never say there is a zero chance” travellers from Spain and other popular holiday destinations will not have to quarantine again in future.
“But having said that, the levels of vaccination and what we now know about the virus and what our scientists have been able to work out in the last year means that people should be able to go away, enjoy their holidays without looking over their shoulders the whole time,” he added.
Shapps also denied claims Dubai was taken off the “red list” for travel so it could more easily act as an international “transport hub”.
Asked about the Middle East city moving to the amber list he said: “With all these changes I often see a whole load of theories behind why a particular country has been opened and another one hasn’t, but with all these changes what we do is ask the experts, that’s the Joint Biosecurity Centre, the JBC in this case, to give us their overview of every country and their recommendation about where a country should sit.
“This time they have come back and said Dubai, and Qatar, the UAE and in fact India – which will surprise some people – are all fit to come from the red list and come onto the amber list.”
The transport secretary also rejected the suggestion Spain was only not put on the red list because there are not enough available rooms to set up hotel quarantine for all returning passengers from the popular destination.
He told Times Radio: “We will always do whatever is required, and you have seen us do this so far with the red list to make sure that countries, even from destinations where there are a lot of people, would go on that red list if that is what is required.
“But we will simply follow the scientific advice.”
After reports of sexual harassment by security staff, rats in rooms and criticism of the quality of food at the quarantine hotels, Shapps said: “The Department for Health actually operates this quarantine system, I know my colleagues there would be very concerned to read any reports and they will certainly be fully investigated because that would be completely unacceptable for the tourists who usually use them.
“it is certainly unacceptable if they are being used temporarily for government quarantine.”
But he defended the decision to raise the price from £1,750 to £2,285 for a solo traveller to stay in one, saying “it is necessary to cover the costs of the quarantine hotels” and the current charges are not doing that.
The government is also hiking the cost for additional adults sharing a room from £650 to £1,430, with the changes coming in from 12 August.
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