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Ministers Urged To End "Confusion" For Public After Contradictory Advice Over International Travel

Ministers have been urged to provide "clarity" over travel restrictions (PA)

4 min read

The government have come under fire over their public messaging following two days of contradictory advice about their traffic-light travel system.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth urged the government to provide "clarity" to the public following 48 hours of mixed messages from senior ministers over the travel guidance.

It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday it was "very clear" that people should not be planning holiday travel to countries on the Amber list, despite Welsh secretary Simon Hart later stating that "some people might think a holiday is essential".

Environment secretary George Eustice added to the confusion on Tuesday after he claimed people could travel to see family and friends under the new guidance, but was then contradicted by health minister Lord Bethell who insisted all foreign travel was "dangerous" and that "travelling is not for this year, please stay in this country."Meanwhile, speaking on Wednesday morning, education minister Gillian Keegan said people should be "sensible" and avoid travelling to countries on the Amber list unless it was for "special circumstances", but added that there was no "ban" on holiday travel to those countries and that the rules were "guidance".

"What we are saying is the amber list is not to go on holiday, not for pleasure travel at the moment," she told Sky News.

"It's not in legislation, we haven't legislated to ban people from going on holiday abroad. This is guidance.

"As with many of these things we have had throughout the pandemic this has been about relying on the great British public to be sensible and follow the guidance we have put in place and taking their own decisions really.

"But, no, we wouldn't advise going on holiday to the amber list countries."

Asked if she believed people were wrong to book holidays to Spain, which is currently on the Amber list, she added: "I have a house in Spain. I lived in Spain for eight years. I'm desperate to go to Spain. But right now, it's not the time to go to Spain".

Under the current rules, those returning to the UK from Amber list countries are required to self-isolate in their own homes for up to ten days and take several Covid-19 tests throughout the period to ensure they have not caught the virus.

But the comments from ministers have prompted criticism from opposition MPs and industry groups, with the shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth saying: "I think people just want clarity. Because people want to do the right thing and there are people who will just want a holiday."He added: "Our borders have been about as secure as a sieve throughout this crisis and it's why we are seeing these variants bounce at us.

"There's probably going to be more of this as well, so we have got to work internationally to bring infection rates down and make sure the world is vaccinated.

"But we have also got to have secure borders and controls as well."

Meanwhile, Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, said the comment would cause "real anger amongst the hundreds of thousands of people whose livelihoods depend on international travel, and confusion amongst familied who have booked travel under the Government's own restart policy, now less than 48 hours old".

And in a pointed attack on Lord Bethell's description of all foreign travel as "dangerous", he added: "People should not travel to red countries, we know that, but to generalise against perfectly legal traven even to green countries is deeply unhelpful".

A spokesperson for travel association, ABTA, said: "It doesn't make sense for the Government to tell people they shouldn’t travel to amber destinations when the Government itself has put a plan in place that allows them to do this in a risk managed way, with mitigations such as testing and quarantine.

"The recent comments and mixed messages from Ministers undermine the Government’s own system for international travel and further erode consumer confidence."

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