PM warns UK must stop new COVID variants coming from abroad as ministers set to unveil amber watchlist


Boris Johnson has said he wants a “simple” and “user-friendly” system for holidaymakers amid speculation that a new amber travel watchlist is set to be introduced – but emphasised the UK needs to stop variants coming in.

The government is set to announce changes to the traffic light system this week, possibly including a new amber COVID watchlist of countries which could move to the red list with little warning.

Travellers returning to the UK from red list countries have to pay £1,750 to stay in hotel quarantine for 10 days.

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Several Tory backbenchers, travel industry bosses and Labour said yet another list would be “complicated” and a “disaster”.

But the prime minister said: “We must stop importing variants from abroad and we have to have a balanced approach and what I want to see is something that is as simple and as user friendly for people as possible but, obviously, the double vaccinations that we’ve got really do offer the way forward.

“We’ve had to balance it [the opening up] because of the anxiety that a lot of people have, I have, about importing new variants, bringing back the disease.

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“But we also have to recognise that people want badly to go on their summer holidays, we need to get people to get the travel industry moving again, to get our city centres open again. And so we wanted an approach that is as simple as we can possibly make it.”

Spain is understood to be one of the countries being considered for the list, which could cause problems for up to a million British tourists currently on holiday there.

There are concerns Greece and Italy could follow.

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‘Keep it simple,’ Heathrow boss urges government

The possible amber watchlist will come shortly after passengers coming from amber list countries, but vaccinated in the US or EU, were allowed to avoid isolating for 10 days from Monday. Those vaccinated in the UK were already allowed to avoid self-isolation from amber list countries.

The upcoming announcement has caused a row within government, with Huw Merriman, the Conservative chairman of the Commons transport committee, saying an amber watchlist is a “giant red flag” and would cause booking cancellations and complications.

Earlier on Monday, Matt Warman, minister for digital infrastructure, said the travel watchlist provided people with information to make “informed decisions”.

He told Sky News: “People do have to make common sense judgements and that may involve taking into consideration the fact that a country’s rates may indeed be getting worse.

“The most important thing that the government can do is make sure that people have as much information as they possibly can; that they have information about which direction a foreign country might be going in so that they don’t inadvertently find themselves having to quarantine when they get back.”

According to Times Radio, senior industry figures said the government was “tying itself in knots with these inexplicably complicated rules”.

Travel industry bosses said tens of thousands of jobs were at risk in the aviation and travel sectors because of government changes to the lists.

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye told Sky News: “I think we need to keep it simple and build confidence that vaccination works.

“I’d like to see France coming back on the amber list and an extension of the green list.”

Airlines UK chief executive Tim Alderslade said placing France on the “amber-plus” list was a “total disaster” after ministers revealed the change was prompted by a surge in Beta variant cases on the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion.

Everyone arriving from France, including those who are fully vaccinated, must self-isolate for 10 days.

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