Matt Hancock has intensified confusion over travel to amber and red list destinations, saying that people should not go.
The Government had already stated that people should not travel to red and amber countries for leisure purposes, but this is only advisory and it is no longer illegal to travel anywhere on holiday from today.
But speaking on Times Radio, the Health Secretary said: “People should not travel to amber or red list countries unless it’s absolutely necessary, and certainly not for holiday purposes.”
His words were echoed by the Business Secretary on Sky News today. Kwasi Kwarteng said: “People are allowed to do things but it doesn’t mean that everybody should be going away at the same time.
“I think the urge for caution makes sense. What Matt is saying is: ‘Yes, you can go to an amber country but it would probably be advisable at this stage not to.”
But several tour operators, including easyJet holidays and TUI plan to take holidaymakers to destinations on the amber list, including the Canaries, Malta and five Greek islands.
And last week ABTA confirmed that holidaymakers who have booked to travel to amber countries are not entitled to cancel with a full refund unless the Foreign Office (FCDO) is advising against non-essential travel to their destination.
The FCDO is currently advising against all but essential travel to many countries on the amber list, including Greece with the exception of Corfu, Crete, Rhodes, Zante and Kos, Spain but not the Canary Islands, and Cyprus.
Mr Hancock said: “The red and amber list countries are places that you shouldn’t go to unless you have an absolutely compelling reason.”
A leading immunologist, Professor Bell, told Times Radio: “I don’t think anybody’s going on a holiday, except in the UK, because I think there will be pretty substantial border controls . . . there are very broad swathes of Europe that are largely unvaccinated. So they’re pretty vulnerable to new variants . . . sweeping across the continent and leaving very, very high levels of disease.”
A TUI spokesperson said: “We want to offer our customers flexibility and choice this summer, so where borders are open and FCDO advice allows travel, we will operate to those destinations. We know some customers may be unsure about travelling this summer, so we’ve offered free changes 14 days before travel for anyone due to travel before the end of August.”
An easyJet holidays spokesperson said: “We want holidays to go ahead for as many of our customers as possible this summer, and we recognise that the discrepancy between countries on the ‘amber’ list and the FCDO’s ‘all but essential travel’ warnings are confusing for holidaymakers and the industry alike.
“We’re absolutely committed to safe and enjoyable holidays so we’re constantly keeping future holidays under review and we always follow FCDO advice. We won’t operate holidays to destinations on the ‘red’ list, or anywhere the FCDO advises against all but essential travel, or where, at the point of departure, there’s a known routine quarantine requirement in destination and providing proof of a negative Covid-19 test won’t allow our customers to miss this quarantine period.
“But we recognise that many our customers do still want their holidays to go ahead, so for ‘amber’ list destinations where holidays can be enjoyed safely and legally, which do not have ‘all but essential travel’ warnings and where there is no quarantine requirement in destination, we are providing flexibility and choice so customers can make up their own mind about their holiday. We’ve further enhanced our flexibility for travel this summer, meaning customers to these destinations have the option to go on holiday as planned, or make fee free changes up to 24 hours before departure, or choose to cancel the holiday for easyJet holidays credit to put towards a future booking for when the time is right.
“We want travel to many more countries to be permitted this summer so we urge the government to review the traffic light system based on data and science, and to provide transparency on decision making and clarity on when we can expect travel to be permitted to more countries in Europe, so we can get our customers away on their well-deserved holidays once again.”