The creation of an extra travel alert level hung in the balance last night amid a mounting Tory revolt and a warning by Rishi Sunak that the industry faced devastation.
Ministers signed off proposals last week to create an ‘amber watch list’ that could plunge the plans of hundreds of thousands of British holidaymakers into turmoil.
Travellers would be warned that destinations – possibly including hotspots such as Spain and Italy – face being placed on the red list while they are away, forcing them to quarantine on return in a state-selected hotel at huge expense.
The creation of an extra travel alert level hung in the balance last night amid a mounting Tory revolt and a warning by Rishi Sunak (pictured) that the industry faced devastation
But a Whitehall source told the Mail last night that the idea could be shelved, adding: ‘We’ll have to wait and see what the data looks like later this week.
‘But there will have to be a very strong case to create another category at this stage. There is a lot of opposition to anything that causes more confusion and uncertainty right now.’
Yesterday it emerged that Mr Sunak had written to Boris Johnson to warn the Government risked damaging the travel sector by imposing more ‘draconian’ measures than EU rivals. He said UK border policy was ‘out of step with our international competitors’ in a way that threatened to damage jobs.
Treasury sources played down the split, insisting the Chancellor’s letter was written before last week’s decision to lift quarantine restrictions for double-jabbed tourists from the US and Europe, which comes into force today.
Ministers signed off proposals last week to create an ‘amber watch list’ that could plunge the plans of hundreds of thousands of British holidaymakers into turmoil (file image)
But senior Tories warn against imposing measures that could wreck family holidays and damage the stricken travel sector further.
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said families should be governed by the quarantine rule in place when they leave for a holiday, even if the status of their destination alters during their trip.
He told the Mail: ‘We cannot mess families around like this.
‘If you have gone away on the basis that the country is okay and you have had your two vaccines then you should not have to self-isolate when you get back.
Probe into testing kits pricing
By Az Munrallee for the Daily Mail
Many of the Government’s cheapest Covid test kits are unavailable to holidaymakers, probing an investigation by the British advertising watchdog.
Private firms offering tests are listed on the Government’s website, with some advertised at £23. But analysis of the 50 least costly options found two thirds could not be ordered or appointments for on-site tests were not available until next month.
The Advertising Standards Authority is now investigating the issue following complaints over ‘inconsistent pricing’ of the kits that are mandatory for travel.
Unvaccinated amber list holidaymakers from England must have a test before they return to the UK, and have two PCR tests when they return during their quarantine. Vaccinated travellers need a test before they arrive and another when they return.
Consultancy firm Fideres, which carried out the analysis, said consumers should expect to pay around £114 for a two-test kit. The cheapest swabs for those returning from an amber list country was £78. The firm’s Paul Vella said: ‘The Government is reporting prices… without actually checking if these low prices are available.’
He also told The Guardian that travellers are being ‘misled’ and steered into ‘using more expensive providers’.
The Department of Health said: ‘We do not endorse or recommend any private Covid-19 test provider. All private providers must meet the minimum required standards.’
‘I am glad the Chancellor is getting involved because we have to start thinking about the economic damage we are causing by overly restrictive and constantly changing rules. We need to be trusting our vaccines and opening up, not constantly tinkering in a way that undermines confidence.’
Another senior Tory described an amber watch list as ‘madness’, adding: ‘It is a stupid idea which will cause bookings to collapse. Who in their right mind would go on holiday having been warned they may have to quarantine at huge expense when they get back?’
Henry Smith, chairman of the Future of Aviation group of MPs, also backed the idea of a ‘fortnight guarantee’ for holidaymakers, adding: ‘I hope ministers will accept the case that if you travelled in good faith you should be allowed to come back in on the conditions on which you left.’
He said the complex traffic-light system, which has five alert levels, was ‘putting people off travel to places that are arguably safer than many parts of the UK’.
The push to create an amber watch list has been prompted by concern among health officials about the rise of the Beta variant in countries such as Spain.
The strain, which emerged in South Africa, is thought to be more resistant to the AstraZeneca jab than the Delta variant, which his now dominant in the UK.
Ministers are keen to avoid a repeat of the fiasco in which France was placed on an ‘amber plus’ list of its own last month.
Travellers from France still have to isolate for ten days on arrival in the UK, although this restriction is set to be lifted this week.
An amber watch list would not carry quarantine restrictions of its own. But travellers would be warned their destination is on the brink of going on to the red list.
If it does, they would face the choice of rushing home before the deadline or paying £1,750 a head to quarantine in a Government-approved hotel when they return.
The Joint Biosecurity Centre, which analyses Covid data, is due to give ministers its latest assessment of the international threat.
They will then meet on Thursday to decide which countries should go in each category, and whether a new amber watch list is needed.
Travellers would be warned that destinations – possibly including hotspots such as Spain and Italy – face being placed on the red list while they are away, forcing them to quarantine on return in a state-selected hotel at huge expense. Pictured: File image of sunbathers in Barcelona, Spain, on July 9, 2021
3 days working at home new normal
The traditional working week is over with firms adopting a three-and-two approach – with fewer days in the office.
Having three days at home and two in the office is set to become the new normal as a result of the pandemic.
Many big firms have already agreed the changes, while the Institute of Directors said two thirds of business leaders will allow remote working. Roger Barker, the institute’s director of policy, said the pandemic had driven a revolution ‘greater than radical reform or regulation ever could have’.
And YouGov found just one in five bosses will require all staff to come in five days a week after the pandemic.
NatWest expects almost nine in ten staff to work at home while Asda said its employees could work from any location suited to their job.