Airline and travel firms saw their shares fall this morning after the government added just a handful of small countries to the UK’s quarantine-free travel “green list”.
Last night transport secretary Grant Shapps confirmed that from 4am Wednesday 30 June, arrivals to the UK from Malta, Madeira, Ibiza, Mallorca, and some Caribbean Islands including Barbados will not have to quarantine.
By the close of trading, holiday firms Tui and Jet2 were down 1.1 and 1.9 per cent respectively, with BA owner IAG down 2.45 per cent and budget carrier Wizz Air both 1.2 per cent.
Easyjet closed down 1.5 per cent.
Travel bosses have for weeks been making the case that the travel list needs to be expanded and that green list arrivals should face fewer testing rules and costs.
Although they welcomed the move, most airline bosses said that the update – which also saw a number of countries added to the “red list” – did not go far or fast enough.
Shai Weiss, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, said the government’s announcement of an expanded travel green list “fails to go far enough”, and that £23m in economic value is restricted each day while the US remains on the amber list.
“The UK has already fallen behind the EU’s reopening and a continued overly cautious approach will further impact economic recovery and the 500,000 UK jobs that are at stake,” Weiss added.
Shapps also said the government was considering removing the quarantine period for fully vaccinated people travelling from amber list countries, “showing a real sign of progress.”
This met with approval from airlines, but they urged ministers to implement the change “immediately” to save the summer season.
But Shapps did not, however, outline when these plans would be confirmed.
The full list of countries being added to the green list from 4am next Wednesday is as follows:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- The Balearic Islands (which include Ibiza, Menorca, Majorca and Formentera)
- British Antarctic Territory
- British Indian Ocean Territory
- British Virgin Islands
- Cayman Islands
- Pitcairn Islands
- Turks and Caicos Islands
All additions to the green list apart from Malta will also join a new ‘green watchlist’, as will Israel and Jerusalem – signalling that these countries are at risk of moving from green to amber.
Industry ‘on tenterhooks’
The head of pilot’s union Balpa Brian Strutton said after the evening announcement: “The Government has not gone as far as it could have in opening up safe travel but they clearly heard the industry’s voice yesterday and have responded. It isn’t good enough to survive on and the absence of any US routes is a bitter blow.
“With some countries looking to shut us out, it is now imperative that the bespoke financial support the Chancellor promised last year is delivered immediately.”
Expectations of additions to the green list were fairly muted, so some travel agents were boosted from the number of destinations that were deemed low-risk.
Donat Rétif, the CEO of online travel agency Loveholidays said: “It’s a great and long-awaited boost to the holiday industry to see popular summer holiday destinations including Majorca and Ibiza added to the green list. But it’s critical the government provides greater certainty and addresses the remaining issues with the travel regime quickly.
“Customers need reassurance that destinations on the green list won’t be switched back to amber before the next official review and a decision on quarantine requirements for double vaccinated travellers needs to be made as soon as possible.”
The travel sector has been “on tenterhooks all week” waiting for the Government’s update to the green list, AJ Bell financial analyst Danni Hewson said.
Commenting on what this meant for travel stocks at the close of London markets today, Hewson said: “Investor sentiment has been split today, with gains for TUI, InterContinental Hotels and Wizz Air but EasyJet, IAG and Carnival slipped.
“A few more options will help but though Boris Johnson has made optimistic noises about vaccine passports, there are so many moving pieces to consider including the rising number of cases of the Delta variant which could cool the welcome from other countries for UK tourists.”
Northern Ireland jumps the gun
Northern Ireland has added the Balearic Islands, Malta and some Caribbean islands to its travel green list, effective from 4am next Wednesday, adding to expectations that other UK nations might follow suit.
It also added Eritrea, Haiti, Kuwait, Mongolia, Tunisia and Uganda to its travel red list.
Frosty EU reception
Even if the rules are relaxed by the UK government, British holidaymakers could face yet another obstacle: German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called on EU countries to force all UK travellers to quarantine on arrival, amid fears over the Delta Covid-19 variant.
French president Emmanuel Macron has joined Merkel’s push to keep the Delta variant out, and said it was necessary for all of Europe to be “vigilant”.
27 EU leaders have agreed a statement at a summit in Brussels that echoed this sentiment, saying the EU would be “vigilant and coordinated” in its response to the spread of new variants.
Belgium caught on to the Delta variant worries this afternoon and placed the UK on a new list of “very high risk” countries. Anyone who spent time in one of the countries on the list in the last 14 days is banned from travelling to Belgium, unless they are a resident or national.
What do the rules mean?
- Green: Travellers returning from green countries have to take a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours of departure, and then take a PCR test on or before the second day of their return to the UK (even if fully vaccinated). They will not have to quarantine.
- Amber: Holidaymakers returning from “amber” destinations have to isolate at home for 10 days. Amber travellers also have to take a test before departure and book and pay for two PCR tests on day two and day eight of their home quarantine. If they want to release quarantine early, they can pay for a PCR test on day five (but will still have to take the test on the eighth day, as well).
- Red: Brits coming back from “red” countries have to quarantine for 10 days in hotels chosen by the government. The stay costs £1,750 per person, with pre-departure tests and tests on days two and eight.