English citizens will be allowed to holiday in France without having to spend 10 days in Covid quarantine on their return, the government has announced.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps revealed that from 4am on Sunday the country will be formally moved from the “amber plus” category, meaning that children and double-jabbed adults can travel without any need to self-isolate.
Worries about the level of Beta variant of the virus had led the UK last month to suddenly impose strict conditions on travel to France, ruining the summer plans of those who had booked breaks for August.
The short notice of the move sparked fury and prompted a backlash from the French government, not least as it appeared Britain had mistakenly confused Beta levels in France with those in its Indian Ocean island of Reunion.
Falling levels of the Beta or South African variant of the virus in France prompted the change in status, the government said.
However, fears over the prevalence of the Beta variant in Spain means that travellers from the country and all its islands will be “advised”, but not ordered, to use a PCR test rather than the current lateral flow test before they return to the UK.
PCR tests are more expensive than lateral flow tests, so the new advice could had hundreds of pounds to a family holiday in Spain.
Although the changes apply to travel to England, it is expected that Scottish and Welsh governments will follow suit.
In his latest travel update, Shapps also said that Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Romania and Norway will be added to the government’s “green list”, where even those without jabs can travel freely.
India, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE will be moved to amber from the “red list”, removing the need to quarantine in hotels for 10 days.
But Mexico, La Reunion, Mayotte and Georgia were all added to the red list, to protect the UK from rising cases of the Beta and Columbia variants of the virus.
And in a further hardening of the rules, the government has increased the bill for approved hotels where travellers are forced to stay on return from a red list country. The cost for a single adult rises by £535, and the cost for a second adult goes up even more, by £780.
Shapps said: “We are committed to opening up international travel safely, taking advantage of the gains we’ve made through our successful vaccination programme, helping connect families, friends and businesses around the world.”
Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid said: “As well as moving more countries to the green list, today’s announcement also demonstrates the need for continued caution. Further countries have been added to the red list to help protect the success of our vaccine rollout from the threat of new variants.”
But shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said: “The government has plunged the summer plans of thousands of families into chaos with their flip-flopping over France.
“Ministers need to get a grip and set out a proper strategy, provide full data, and progress work with global partners on international vaccine passports so travellers and the industry can have clarity instead of reckless U-turns and confusion.”
All classification changes have been decided by ministers, informed by the latest data and analysis by the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC).
The cost of red list quarantine will rise from £1,750 per person for 11 nights to £2,285 for a single adult.
The bill will rise even further for second adults, from £650 to £1,430, in order to “better reflect the increased costs” involved with providing their quarantine, transport, security, welfare services and two PCR tests which must be taken on day two and day eight of the stay.
The price remains unchanged at £325 for children aged 5-12 and free for children under five.