Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Pointless Green list, useless COVID passport & hopeless health secretary

From this week the so-called Green list of countries has been extended allowing Brits to travel abroad for a summer holiday. But while the traffic lights - concerning being allowed to travel - may have gone green, there is much red tape still involved, and many of the countries listed are refusing to allow visitors from Britain.

Restrictions remain

Destinations on the 'Green list' are countries and territories that the UK government sees as being safe enough to visit without the need to quarantine on return. However, many of those same said countries require proof of double vaccination or a negative PCR test. And even then some are still requiring British visitors to self isolate.

Today, Wednesday 30th June 2021, Malta announced that it would not accept the NHS app, which generates a QR code providing information of a person's vaccination record, as proof of vaccination. Instead Malta has said that only a certified letter, which can take up to a week to secure, would be required. Furthermore, all persons above the age of 12 years of age would need to show proof of vaccination, scuppering the plans of many families as thus far the 12 to 18 age group is so far not able to get a COVID-19 jab in the UK [Sky News / Daily Mail].

It is not just Malta that has put up barriers for British travellers hoping to get away in the summer.

European restrictions

France, another popular country for travelling Brits. However, the UK is currently rated as amber by France. This means you cannot enter unless you have both proof of vaccination and proof of a negative COVID-19 test. And, you must have both. France will accept the NHS app or NHS letter - or equivalent in Scotland and Wales - as proof of vaccination. And being on the Amber list UK visitors would also need to self-isolate on return and provide UK authorities with two COVID tests.

Italy is also proving a headache for those hoping to see the quarter-finals of the EURO 2020 tournament as the country recently brought in rules requiring 5 day quarantine periods for UK visitors. It is unclear whether Italy recognises the NHS app, but given vaccination status is not taken into account in order to gain entry, the issue is moot [Guardian].

Greece will let British tourists enter in based on vaccination status and does accept the NHS app or letter. However, on return to the UK tests and periods of quarantine will be required as Greece remains on the list of Amber countries.

Iceland and Balearic Islands open but with restrictions

As regards countries on the UK travel Green list, requirements vary. Iceland says it's open to visitors, and that vaccination status may be presented electronically or in paperwork. However, COVID-19 tests might still be required and certain forms also have to be completed before travel [landlaeknir].

There are a few European tourist spots one might head to. The Balearic Islands (which include Ibiza, Menorca, Majorca and Formentera), Malta and Madeira are all listed. Malta is already putting up hurdles. And starting this week, Spain will demand a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of travel or proof of full vaccination from all UK travellers including those visiting the Balearic Islands [iNews]. It is not yet clear whether the NHS app will be accepted in Spain - which remains on the Amber list - or its green listed territories.

Australia and New Zealand closed

Further afield both Australia and New Zealand are essentially off limits despite being on the Green list. The Australian Government has implemented immigration measures which allow only Australian citizens, residents and immediate family members to travel to Australia. The government has also advised that all new arrivals are required to self-isolate for 14 days. And even if one could get in, much of the country is currently in lockdown after a recent surge in cases and concerns over vaccine rollout [BBC]. New Zealand is also very much off limits with a blanket travel ban except for New Zealand citizens and a few select exemptions.

Most of the Green list consists of islands, many of them thousands of kilometres away and some impossible to get to.

Caribbean restrictions 

Anguilla opens to British tourists in July [Telegraph]. Nonetheless, despite being a long way off there are still a significant number of entry requirements including proof of vaccination and tests.

Other far off Carribean getaway destinations include Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat and Turks and Caicos Islands. Some restrictions concerning these places differ.

Grenada requires that all travellers must pre-book approved accommodation for quarantine on arrival, pre-pay for COVID tests, apply for a Pure Safe Travel Certificate and obtain a negative COVID PCR test result within 3 days of travel. Others are effectively cut off from the world such as the Cayman Islands. Airports in the Cayman Islands are closed to all scheduled inbound and outbound international passenger flights until further notice. In addition there is a ban on cruise ships docking in the Cayman Islands.

Impossible destinations

While there are one or two European destinations that may be open to British visitors most territories on the Green list are either impossible to get in, difficult to get in or simply pointless even listing.

Two cases in point are the listings of the British Antarctic Territory and Pitcairn Island [Independent].

Currently it is -1°C in the British Antarctic Territory, with a wind chill factor making it feel more like -10°C. Furthermore the region is virtually inaccessible during the winter which encompasses the period between March and October.

There's always Pitcairn, home to the descendants of the Bounty Mutineers! However getting there might also prove tricky. Google Maps failed to provide any clues as to how one might facilitate travel. The UK government website helpfully informs readers that there is no access to the island by air and that details of the shipping services to Pitcairn can be found on the Pitcairn Islands Tourism website. Clicking through leads one to a rather disappointing statement that "all cruise ships, tour vessels and yachts will be unable to land passengers at Pitcairn Island and the exchange of provisions (unless urgently required) is not permitted. This restriction will also now remain in place until March 31st 2022."

Staycation, the only option

Given sudden rule changes that have seen tourists having to make the mad rush home from Spain and Portugal in the last year in order to avoid costly quarantine or tests, perhaps it's best just to ride it out and put that foreign summer holiday on hold for yet another year.  Indeed it might well be worth holding back until 2023!

Let's hope the British weather holds up, though if you should decide to head to the south-west you might bump into some "hopeless" guy [Guardian]. Earlier this year it was reported that Matt Hancock told told MPs he had already booked a summer trip to Cornwall [The Sun] !!

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