For the government’s last assessment, on July 14, industry experts had expected countries such as Italy, Germany and Canada to be moved to the “green list,” and Turkey and the United Arab Emirates to be upgraded to “amber” from “red,” based on the countries’ case numbers and vaccination rates. But only Bulgaria and Hong Kong were upgraded to green. No country has been moved off the red list since the traffic light system started.
The government has rejected criticism of its cautious approach, saying that it is necessary to protect the country’s successful vaccination program while it grapples with a new surge in Covid cases, which is driven by the highly contagious Delta variant.
“Our international travel policy is guided by one overwhelming priority — public health,” a spokesman for the Department of Transport, speaking anonymously in line with government policy, said in an email. “Traffic light allocations are based on a range of factors including genomic surveillance capability, transmission risk and variants of concern.”
Britain’s travel operators have called for an immediate overhaul of the system, saying that the lack of transparency and sudden changes have wreaked havoc among consumers and businesses and could put hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk.
More than 300,000 jobs were lost in the British travel sector last year, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council, and a further 218,000 jobs are at serious risk if international travel remains restricted, it said.
“While the domestic holiday market is reaping the benefits of ‘Freedom Day,’ with staycations booming, we are not out of the woods yet,” said Virginia Messina, a senior vice president of the W.T.T.C.
“International travel remains either off limits or frustratingly difficult for many,” she added. “This means the door to significant overseas travel still remains effectively closed.”