Malta, Madeira and the Balearics added to green list for Scotland in latest travel review
Scots will be allowed to travel to Malta, Madeira and the Balearics without having to quarantine in an immediate boon for holidaymakers after the locations were added to the green list in the latest travel review.
But travel industry groups reacted with disappointment to the lack of wider policy changes, warning tens of thousands of workers in the aviation sector faced losing their jobs this autumn and claiming the existing traffic light risk warning system was not fit for purpose.
The Scottish Government announced the green list additions on Thursday evening, with the easing coming following the latest review of the traffic light system for international travel, which came into effect on May 17.
There is a ‘green’, ‘amber’ and ‘red list’ of destinations depending on the number of coronavirus cases, the spread of variants of concern and the rollout of vaccines in each place.
Ministers will now monitor the position in the Balearics over the next three weeks ahead of the next review point.
Other additions to an expanded green travel list include Antigua, Barbados, and Bermuda.
These changes will come into effect at 4am on Wednesday.
Transport secretary Michael Matheson said: “From the outset we have said caution is required regarding international travel and people should think very carefully about travelling abroad as situations can suddenly change.
“We continue to work closely with the other home nations and are cautiously supportive of exploring options for the easing of restrictions for fully vaccinated travellers arriving from countries on the amber list – but only if the clinical advice supports it and if systems are in place to ensure the wider safety of the Scottish population.”
Making his own announcement, UK transport secretary Grant Shapps confirmed there were plans to allow quarantine-free travel for people with two jabs returning from amber countries.
He said: “We’re moving forward with efforts to safely reopen international travel this summer, and thanks to the success of our vaccination programme, we're now able to consider removing the quarantine period for fully vaccinated UK arrivals from amber countries – showing a real sign of progress.
“It’s right that we continue with this cautious approach, to protect public health and the vaccine rollout as our top priority, while ensuring that our route out of the international travel restrictions is sustainable.”
The Scottish Government is now also believed to be “cautiously” considering easing amber list travel restrictions for fully vaccinated people.
Unite, the UK’s leading aviation union, reacted by calling for more transparency with the traffic light system. The body also renewed its call for the UK Government to extend the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) for aviation sector workers beyond the end of September.
Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland said: “It is becoming increasingly clear that due to policies in the UK and in destination counties international air travel is not going to return to anything like normal this year.”
He added: “As a minimum the government must extend the furlough scheme until spring next year to protect aviation jobs.
“If they fail to do so then tens of thousands of workers will be at risk of losing their jobs when the CJRS ends.
“The traffic light system is simply not fit for purpose. It is impossible for a multi-billion pound industry to make plans for the future when the rug can be pulled from under them every three weeks.”
EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren welcomed the addition of Malta, Madeira and the Balearics to the green list, but added: “This is still not the safe and sustainable reopening of travel the government promised … with two thirds of UK adults expected to be double jabbed by July 19, now is the time to let British citizens take advantage of the success of the vaccination programme.
“The timetable set out by the [UK] Government simply isn’t ambitious enough. What we are waiting for? The apps are in place and airlines are ready to go, so we urge the government to move more quickly and remove both quarantine and testing for fully vaccinated people.”
Joanne Dooey, president of the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA), predicted travel agents would could hope for a surge in bookings as schools broke up for the summer holidays.
"This coming weekend should have been the big holiday exodus for many Scottish families – the busiest weekend of the year,” she said.
"Our recent survey into the sentiment of the Scottish public showed that a massive 96 pre cent of Scots who travelled overseas between March 2020 and today felt very or fairly safe. Just 4 per cent of overseas travellers felt ‘not very safe’; with no travellers reporting that they ‘did not feel safe at all’.”
She added: “Being able to travel to amber countries if you have been double vaccinated is the next positive move we need. We need to bring back customer confidence that holidays can be booked now.”
Earlier Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed double jabs could “open travel”.
He said: "I think the real opportunity we all have now is to open travel through the double jab.
"We’ve got more than 60 per cent of our population have now had two jabs, I think 83 per cent have had one jab, we’re really getting through it now.
“The crucial thing is to come forward and get your second jab."
UK tourism minister Nigel Huddleston also called for an “evidence-based approach”.
He said: “We all want to get travelling again – but there is no such thing as risk-free travel and we need to take a cautious approach.
"The ambition, the goal, the hope is to open up travel as soon as it’s safe to do so."
The UK Government vaccine announcement was welcomed by Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye.
He said: “It is very positive news that ministers are following the science and that fully vaccinated people will be able to travel safely without quarantine later this summer.”
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