Spain could be next on Britain's 'amber plus' travel list

Prevalence of Beta variant blamed for travel restrictions on France is at similar level in Spain

Spain could be the next country hit with tougher travel curbs by Britain because of concerns over the Beta variant, it is feared.

The Covid-19 variant first identified in South Africa was cited by ministers as the reason for scrapping quarantine-free travel to France from Monday.

France was put in a new category, nicknamed “amber plus”, which means vaccinated travellers can no longer evade isolation on their return to Britain.

In Spain, the Beta variant accounts for about one in every 11 virus samples sequenced by genomic experts, a similar prevalence to that in France.

Spain is a major holiday market for British tourists and flight bookings rose fourfold after the exemption for vaccinated travellers was announced.

Travellers from further afield have used Spain as a stopping point, so they can enter Britain without having been in a red list country in the previous 10 days.

Paul Charles, head of travel consultancy The PC Agency, raised concerns that Spain and Greece could both join France on the “amber plus” list.

“The concern is the Government will be looking at Spain and Greece and potentially add those to the amber plus category,” he said.

Government minister Paul Scully, an under secretary of state for business, did not deny reports Spain could be added to the list.

He told Sky News on Tuesday that “we’ll try and give people as much notice as we can” when any changes are made.

Ministers will “work out what is best to make sure that we keep transmission of the virus low, we keep transmission of the variants low,” he said.

“There’s a lot of factors that are involved in the decisions that are taken around travel.”

epa08945877 Travellers in the international arrival area of Heathrow Airport near London, Britain, 18 January 2021. Travel corridors in the the UK were closed at 04:00 hours on 18 January 2021 as British government declared. Travellers arriving to England from anywhere outside the UK have to to self-isolate for 10 days and must have proof of a negative coronavirus test. Britain's national health service (NHS) is coming under sever pressure as Covid-19 hospital admissions continue to rise across the UK.  EPA/NEIL HALL

Britain last week toughened the rules on Spain’s Balearic Islands, which include popular destinations Mallorca and Ibiza.

The islands were moved from the green to the amber list amid concerns about a surge in cases among unvaccinated younger people.

Ministers do not disclose their exact methods for determining travel rules and the move to restrict travel to France led to criticism from Paris on Monday.

Clement Beaune, a French minister for European affairs, described the new restrictions as excessive and questioned Britain’s reasoning.

Critics said France’s data was skewed by a cluster of Beta cases in the overseas territory of La Reunion.

Britain’s traffic light system is aimed at reviving the hard-hit travel sector after a year of curbs on foreign holidays.

The UK launched the system in May, but until now most of Europe’s popular destinations have effectively been out of bounds because of the quarantine requirement.

Passenger numbers at London’s Heathrow Airport are still about 90 per cent down on pre-pandemic levels, latest figures show.

Updated: July 20th 2021, 10:08 AM