History 'repeats itself' as government rejects bid to scrap amber travel list

Nadhim Zahawi in the House of Commons

Nadhim Zahawi in the House of Commons - Credit: PA

Calls to immediately scrap the amber travel list and move the countries to the banned red list have been rejected by the government.

MPs voted 363 to 256, a majority of 107, to defeat a Labour motion that called for action to create a “clear, simply understood and proper” hotel quarantine scheme at the UK border.

Transport minister Robert Courts accused Labour of “proposing closing down and opening up simultaneously in the same debate” while vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said the UK’s rules for arrivals in the country are “firm but fair”.

Zahawi told MPs: “Red country arrivals must quarantine in a managed quarantine facility for 10 days and take tests on day two and day eight, amber country arrivals must self-isolate in their own accommodation and have a test booked for day two and day eight, green country arrivals no quarantine required but must have a test on or before day two arrival.

“All passengers from red, amber and green countries must have a negative pre-departure test.”

Zahawi said the public is “advised against” leisure travel to amber countries, such as France or Spain, and red countries.

But shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon was among several opposition MPs to criticise the time taken to place India on the red list, given the spread of the Delta variant – first identified in the country.

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He said: “We all know why the government won’t release the data – if they were to release the data, what it would show is that India absolutely should have been put on the red list at the same time Pakistan and Bangladesh were. That’s what the data would show.

“But that doesn’t sit comfortably with the prime minister, who was planning for his trade visit. That was the real reason it was delayed.

“That one trade visit, that one photocall, that bit of publicity was worth more than jobs in hospitality, worth more than jobs in our wedding industry, worth more than jobs in tourism and aviation? The photoshoot? The propaganda? It just wasn’t.”

Conservative former minister Tobias Ellwood asked the government to co-ordinate efforts with European partners so that people who have had two vaccines can holiday abroad.

He said: “It is the vaccinations that will get us out of here, I absolutely applaud the work we’re doing internationally.

“But can I ask that we start to move in September to vaccinate teenagers as well, and finally, because so many people do want to travel abroad, can we co-ordinate efforts that if you’ve had two vaccines we join into a travel system with our European partners to allow us to go unimpeded to travel and holiday abroad?”

Reacting to the vote, shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said in a statement: “History is – sadly – repeating itself. Yet again, Conservative ministers have ignored the warnings that lax border policies leave us open to new variants and voted against Labour’s plan to put in place vital protections.”

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