Agents in Scotland have lambasted the UK government’s decision to remove Portugal from its quarantine-free green list for international travel, warning it heralds a return to last summer’s travel corridor "hokey cokey".
After hours of leaks to the national press, which caused consternation for travel businesses, transport secretary Grant Shapps finally confirmed the government’s decision at around 4.30pm on Thursday afternoon (3 June).
Shapps said the government’s Joint Biosecurity Centre had advised removing Portugal owing to the emergence of another new variant of Covid-19, understood to be a mutation of the Delta strain of the virus (commonly known as the so-called Indian variant).
He said the government had taken a "safety first" approach by removing Portugal now in an effort to protect the proposed 21 June unlock of the UK’s domestic economy. "We just don’t know the potential for that [variant] to be a vaccine-defeating mutation," he told BBC News.
Joanne Dooey, president of the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA), said agents in Scotland had run out of words to described their feelings of shock at the measures relating to international travel introduced and subsequently revoked since the start of the pandemic.
"We described the situation of ’travel corridors’ last year as the hokey cokey as we didn’t know from one week to the next which countries would be in or out," said Dooey. "This year, with the introduction of the traffic lights, all we have is a more colourful version of the hokey cokey – which is after all a comical and ridiculous child’s game.
“It’s a fallacy to say there is a green list for Scotland as with the removal of Portugal, which was effectively the only country we could fly to from Scotland, we’ve added another colour – as Scotland seems black-listed."