Holidays saved – but do Covid rules price out all but the richest travellers?

Price of quarantine hotels rising from £1,750 to £2,285 for solo travellers

Heathrow Terminal 5 passenger
(Image credit: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images)

Summer holidays appear to be back on the menu after ministers announced that fully vaccinated Brits would no longer need to quarantine when returning from France, while plans to introduce tighter self-isolation rules for Spain were ditched.

The travel green list will also be expanded to include Austria, Germany, Latvia, Norway, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

France will be moved from amber-plus to simply amber, meaning fully vaccinated returning passengers will no longer need to quarantine after 4am this Sunday. The extra amber-plus restrictions had been brought in from 19 July because of “the persistent presence of cases in France of the Beta variant”, the BBC reports.

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People returning from amber-plus countries need to self-isolate for ten days and take two PCR Covid tests – whatever their vaccination status.

Fears that classic British holiday destination Spain would be put on the amber-plus or red lists were allayed, with the country staying on the amber list. This means that fully vaccinated passengers and those under 18 can continue to avoid a ten-day quarantine.

However, the Department for Transport is urging arrivals from Spain and its islands to “use a PCR test as their pre-departure test wherever possible” instead of a quicker and cheaper – but less reliable – lateral flow test.

This decision has “sparked backlash”, The Times reports, with Huw Merriman, Tory chairman of the transport select committee, calling PCR tests “an unnecessary rip-off”. A PCR test typically costs £100 in mainland Spain, rather than a £25 lateral flow test, says the paper.

Anyone returning from a red-list country, which requires quarantine in a government-approved hotel, will also face higher charges, says The Times. The cost for solo travellers’ quarantine accommodation will rise from £1,750 to £2,285, while the charge for an additional adult sharing a room will jump from £650 to £1,430, from 12 August in order to “better reflect the increased costs involved”, said the government.

Writing for The Telegraph on Tuesday, Allison Pearson described the cost of international travel as becoming “a shocking new form of apartheid”. “If you’re rich enough and can afford multiple tests and private jets, it feels like you can go where you like,” she wrote. “If you’re no one you’re going nowhere.”

Controversially, India, which has one of the highest rates of Covid in the world, has been moved from the red to amber list, along with Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE.

Naz Shah, MP for Bradford West, released a statement criticising the decision to move India to the amber list while keeping Pakistan on the red list. “It is not the first time that this government has shown such callous behaviour when dealing with the quarantine traffic-light system,” she wrote.

In the latest review, Georgia, Mexico, La Reunion (a French island east of Madagascar) and Mayotte (an archipelago west of Madagascar) will move from amber to red at 4am this Sunday, “necessitating returning travellers to book an 11-night hotel quarantine package”, says The Independent.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that between 5,000 and 6,000 British holidaymakers currently in Mexico were “making arrangements to come home”.

British Airways said its teams were “working through the night to arrange as many additional seats out of Mexico as possible to help get Britons home” before the rules changed.

Some British holidaymakers flying to Mexico found out that the country was being moved onto the red list while in mid-air, MailOnline reports. “The government has been slammed for giving only three days' notice of the change, with the only direct flight from Mexico City to London before Sunday on sale for a staggering £6,878,” says the site.

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 Sorcha Bradley is a writer at The Week and a regular on “The Week Unwrapped” podcast. She worked at The Week magazine for a year and a half before taking up her current role with the digital team, where she mostly covers UK current affairs and politics. Before joining The Week, Sorcha worked at slow-news start-up Tortoise Media. She has also written for Sky News, The Sunday Times, the London Evening Standard and Grazia magazine, among other publications. She has a master’s in newspaper journalism from City, University of London, where she specialised in political journalism.