Transport secretary Grant Shapps has said travellers should “be able to enjoy their holidays without having to look over their shoulders” after the government’s latest changes to the traffic light system.
Shapps made a series of media appearances on Thursday (5 August) after the update to the traffic light system saw France return to the amber list from so-called “amber plus”, which required all travellers to quarantine on arrival in the UK, regardless of their vaccination status.
“People should be able to go away and enjoy their holidays without looking over their shoulders the whole time,” Shapps told Sky News.
But he admitted “you could never say there was zero chance” of a country’s status changing in the next few weeks due to the nature and “unpredictability” of Covid-19, especially the emergence of new variants of the virus.
Although Shapps emphasised that the “next set of changes are not for three weeks” with the scheduled update set for late August.
"That does mean this summer we’re able to set out a three-week programme rather than one week that was the situation last year," Shapps told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“I hope people will be able to go away under the simplified system and enjoy their breaks.”
Shapps also insisted there had been “no change” to the requirements for travellers returning to Spain in the update, as well as denying his department wanted to move the country to new amber watchlist category.
“We’re not asking people to do anything different,” he added. “Before you come to the UK you must have taken a pre-departure test. Virtually everybody already is taking a PCR test from Spain.”
Shapps said that “nine out of 10” people returning from Spain were already taking a PCR test.
He also again defended the original decision taken last month to place France in its own amber plus category - primarily because of the high number of cases on the Indian Ocean island of Reunion.
“We want to make sure people can travel as safely as possible and we protect the domestic gains of people having gone through these lockdowns for the best part of a year and a half,” said Shapps.
“It would be irresponsible for us not to be testing people when they do travel both before they leave and when they get back. That’s how we guard against the next big variant that none of us know about yet.”
Shapps said travellers would have to get used to rules requiring them to be fully vaccinated against Covid to be able to travel internationally.