Government Accused Of Creating “Dangerous Chaos” Over “Amber List” Country Travel Confusion
The UK's border policy has been criticised amid confusion over the amber list of countries (Alamy)
The government has been accused of creating “dangerous chaos” over its traffic light system for travel just hours after opening up the UK’s borders again.
Labour say they have been giving out “conflicting and confused advice” after Downing Street distanced itself from comments made by Cabinet minister George Eustice, who suggested it was acceptable to visit nations on the “amber list” to see “friends”.
It led Yvette Cooper, chair of the home affairs select committee, to accuse the government of having “accelerated summer holiday travelling almost by accident”.
Yesterday the ban on foreign travel due to the pandemic was lifted, with all other countries split into three lists dependent on their risk level for coronavirus.
Only a handful were placed on the green list, where people are not required to isolate upon their return simply take a test for Covid-19 before they set off and once they are back in the UK.
Most countries are on the amber list, where returning Brits must quarantine in their home for 10 days upon their arrival.
But while travel is now allowed to those destinations the government is telling people not to go there for a holiday - yet there is no ban on doing so, and the fines for unlawful travel have also been dropped, leading to confusion about the rules.
After it was revealed 150 flights had set off yesterday to countries not on the UK’s green list, Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: "The Conservatives’ border policies have unravelled into dangerous chaos within a matter of hours of international travel opening up.”
He told PoliticsHome: "There is a lack of strategy, which has meant the UK government, and their own ministers, are giving out conflicting and confused advice about whether people are allowed to travel, especially between ‘amber list’ countries.
"Labour has been clear that there should be a pause on international travel, to guard against further importing of dangerous strains, setting back hopes for ending restrictions."
Cooper said the public health border arrangements are “now a real mess and risk undermining the progress that has been made”.
Speaking to PolHome she said: “The government appears to have accelerated summer holiday travelling almost by accident - making it much easier from this week for people to travel to amber listed countries but only belatedly telling people they should not be doing so.”
The select committee chair added “there isn’t enough clarity about the relationship between the traffic light system and the law, or what government actually wants people to do”.
It comes after health secretary Matt Hancock told the Commons yesterday: "The official government advice is very clear that people should not travel to amber or red list countries or territories.
“People should not travel to amber list countries for a holiday."
But his Cabinet colleague George Eustice told BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning: "The reason we have the amber list is there will be reasons why people feel they need to travel - either to visit family or indeed to visit friends.
"They can travel to those countries but they then have to observe quarantine when they return and have two tests after returning.”The environment secretary added: “So people can travel to those areas, yes, but they then have to subject themselves to quarantine requirements on their return."
Number 10 has since distanced itself from those comments, with the Prime Minister's official spokesman saying: "The position remains that people should not travel to amber list countries, and that is to protect public health."
Asked repeatedly whether that meant Eustice was wrong, the spokesman replied: “The government’s position is that people should not travel to amber list countries.”
When asked therefore if the minister was right to say it was ok to travel to visit friends, he said: “You’ve got my position.
“The government’s position is that people should not travel to amber list countries.”Speaking this lunchtime Johnson reiterated these words, saying it was "very important for people to grasp" places on the amber list should not be considered holiday destinations.
He said: "If people do go to an amber list country - if they absolutely have to for some pressing family or urgent business reason - if they have to go to an amber list country, then please bear in mind that you will have to self isolate.
"You will have to take tests and do a passenger locator form and all the rest of it but you'll also have to self isolate for 10 days when you get back and that period of self-isolation, that period of quarantine, will be enforced with fines of up to £10,000.
"So I think it's important for people to understand what an amber list country is."