Grant Shapps has confirmed the government will review the UK’s green list next month, but has played down any prospect of a significant expansion of the list.
Addressing the Commons’ transport committee on Wednesday (26 May), the transport secretary confirmed there would be a green list update on or around 7 June, and that he had held discussions with the government’s Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) over a new so-called "island policy".
Chair of the committee, Huw Merriman, asked Shapps whether at the next review, islands would be considered separately of their respective mainlands. Shapps said if you were able to travel to an island directly without transit via the mainland, it was "fair and proper to consider it separately".
However, he stressed there were other factors at play beyond the rate of new Covid infections in a destination, such as rates of vaccination and a location’s ability to detect variants via genomic sequencing. "On some of the islands, that is missing," said Shapps.
"So you can have an island that looks very good [in terms of Covid cases] but if you are not sequencing the genome, you don’t know whether variants are part of what might otherwise look okay. I’ve asked the JBC to consider islands within their criteria and where possible, look to include them if the facts stacked up."
Asked whether this could be done in time for the early June review, Shapps said while it was technically possible, it would depend on the quality of the data. "There are a large number of places in the world where they say it’s low, ’trust us’, but the data isn’t published to the standard that you’d expect from the Office for National Statistics, which itself bases publication [of figures] on internationally agreed standards," said Shapps.
"Last summer, we dealt with a lot of places where, in the end, we just couldn’t access the quality of data required to make those judgements that keep us safe."