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‘Green list shambles’ causing untold damage to UK tourism, says Ryanair

·2-min read
Going places? Ryanair Boeing 737 at its main base, London Stansted airport (Simon Calder)
Going places? Ryanair Boeing 737 at its main base, London Stansted airport (Simon Calder)

The boss of Europe’s biggest budget airline has hit out at what he calls “Boris Johnson’s mismanagement of the Covid pandemic” and demanded that vaccinated travellers should be able fly between the UK and EU without restriction.

At present the quarantine-free “green list” has only two feasible destinations: Gibraltar and Iceland.

Ryanair’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, said: “The UK’s Covid travel policy is a shambles.

“The green list is non-existent because countries such as Malta and Portugal, with lower Covid case numbers than the UK and rapidly rising vaccination rates, remain on amber.

“Meanwhile, UK citizens, almost 80 per cent of whom will be vaccinated by the end of June, continue to face Covid restrictions on travel to and from the European Union – despite the fact that the majority of EU citizens will also be vaccinated by the end of June.”

Mr O’Leary was speaking a day after calling for Air Passenger Duty to be suspended for several years to help the travel industry recover from the crisis.

On 3 June the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, removed the only mainstream green list nation, Portugal, and placed it on the amber list – triggering a rush home to avoid quarantine.

Announcing the tightening of controls, Mr Shapps said: “The public has always known travel will be different this year and we must continue to take a cautious approach to reopening international travel in a way that protects public health and the vaccine rollout.

“While we are making great progress in the UK with the vaccine rollout, we continue to say that the public should not travel to destinations outside the green list.”

The Labour Party has called for all amber list destinations to be moved to the red list, with mandatory hotel quarantine for almost all travellers.

Because of existing restrictions on arriving travellers, outbound travel is a small fraction of normal summer levels and inbound tourism to the UK has collapsed almost entirely.

The Ryanair boss said: “It is time for Boris Johnson to end his gross mismanagement of Covid and the recovery from Covid, and take advantage of the UK’s successful vaccine programme to allow the restoration of free movement of vaccinated UK citizens and their families to and from the EU, where Covid case rates are lower than the UK and vaccination rates are rising rapidly”.

“This will at least allow the UK tourism industry to plan for what is left of the summer season and get hundreds of thousands of people back to work.”

On Friday, the tourism minister, Nigel Huddleston, announced a programme for restoring inbound tourism to the UK by 2023.

“The Tourism Recovery Plan is our blueprint for how the sector can build back better from the pandemic, even faster than forecasts predict.” he said.

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