JANET STREET-PORTER: Farcical travel traffic lights are a car crash

JANET STREET-PORTER: The farcical travel traffic lights are a car crash and Covid-weary Brits should vote with their feet, even if it means wearing an ankle tag when we get back

The UK is starting to seem like North Korea. I keep reminding myself – we are a land of the free.

Until recently we still – unlike the unfortunate Uighur Muslims living in China – had the right to freedom of movement, freedom of thought, and freedom TO GO ON HOLIDAY WHEREVER THE HELL WE WANTED. Now holidays are being criminalised by the back door.

On Monday, we celebrated as travel restrictions were lifted, offering the exciting prospect of visiting a select handful of countries without having to quarantine on return. Portugal – one of the few accessible sunny spots on the short Green list – was a winner, taking thousands of bookings in a day.

Not such a huge rush for Iceland, where a cocktail could set you back a week’s wages and the weather is no better than back home and probably worse.

Australia is technically an option – but they’ve closed their borders to then entire world, including plucky Brits.

Or how about the Faroes? Great if you enjoy walking along steep cliffs but forget sandy beaches and the weather could be grim. We’ve had enough of ghastly gales back home this ‘spring’.

Until recently we still – unlike the unfortunate Uighur Muslims living in China – had the right to freedom of movement, freedom of thought, and freedom TO GO ON HOLIDAY WHEREVER THE HELL WE WANTED. Pictured: Monterosso al Mare in 2019

Now holidays are being criminalised by the back door Pictured: Paris, May 19

Unsurprisingly, most people prefer to holiday in countries on the Amber list – France, Spain, Greece, and Italy. Destinations which are accessible and budget friendly.

And after months of confinement, plus hail and thunder this May, long suffering folk are prepared to go through the cost of extra testing and 10 days quarantine on return – even if they’ve already been vaccinated.

But why are these ludicrous extra costs being foisted on travellers – even people who have already been jabbed? And who says a trip to Positano, or Paris is more dangerous than Portsmouth or Pickering?

The EU are about to issue their list of countries which their members can accept visitors from – and the criteria to be on the EU ‘Green’ list is less than 75 cases per 100,000 people. The UK – with 70% of the population having had one jab, and almost 50% having had two, more than qualifies.

Nervousness surrounding the infection rate of the ‘Indian’ variant might force us to wait a little longer, but that’s not definite.

I keep reminding myself – we are a land of the free

Some EU members, desperate to save their devastated travel businesses with an influx of British holidaymakers and their cash, aren’t waiting for the EU approval.

Italy, Spain and Greece are already begging for Brits to return. By the way, more than 50 Greek islands have vaccinated 100% of their inhabitants – they are so desperate for tourists.

And now the government tells us we shouldn’t go anyway.

To add to the confusion, in Whitehall, the left hand doesn’t seem to know what the right hand is doing. The Foreign office regularly issues a list of countries rated safe for non-essential travel (which enables us to purchase travel insurance), and it includes the Canary Islands (Spanish) and the Greek Islands. Both rated Amber by the government.

It’s yet another prime example of how Boris and his doom merchants are using fear to control and manipulate us to a completely unacceptable level.

Since Covid arrived in the UK we have been coerced into mass co-operation and compliance by clever messaging, public health announcements, doom-laden daily press conferences.

We’ve been bombarded with charts and data delivered by a tribe of scientists and medical experts speaking a language only they understand. We’ve been told it’s patriotic to toe the line, save the NHS.

The government uses behavioural scientists to advise key departments the best ways to manipulate us into going along with their restrictions and rules so that they don’t need to introduce unpopular new laws.

I’m certain they would have liked to ban all foreign holidays- but realised such drastic action would go down like a cup of cold sick.

So, they came up with their ridiculous traffic light system of ratings – Red, Amber and Green – which are utterly confusing. They ensured it was expensive to get tested, adding hundreds of pounds to a typical family holiday, and then insist we must submit to house arrest on our return (losing wages in the process).

The icing on the cake? You’ll be under surveillance, just like a criminal.

Ankle tags will be the next step.

Priti Patel is beefing up her army of snoopers, carrying out 100,000 inspections a day, monitoring unpatriotic travellers who dared to enjoy a holiday in Italy, Lanzarote, or Kos.

The thought police are trying to link some harmless sun, fun and sangria with danger, disease, and destruction by issuing a series of pompous public statements.

Health Minister Lord Bethell stood up in the House of Lords and pronounced foreign travel is ‘dangerous’.

More dangerous than attending a football match in Glasgow?

Holidaymakers enjoy the sunshine on Faro beach, Portugal on the first day of the easing of restrictions for International travel

Meanwhile, Environment Minister George Eustice dared to say he thought it was OK to visit anywhere on the ‘Amber’ list to visit family and friends, but was quickly slapped back into line and issued a retraction.

Jonathan Van-Tam, Deputy Chief Medical Advisor told us that a trip to any of these (Amber) destinations would be ‘like jumping into a shark infested pond’.

Or swimming in one of our filthy rivers?

Matt Hancock said ‘holiday at home’.

But some ministers have several homes in the UK – including Boris – so that can’t be too tough.

Finally, Boris stood up in Parliament two days after claiming he was thrilled to offer us more freedom – and had the sheer cheek to announce ‘it’s very, very clear you should not be going to an Amber list country except for extreme circumstances, for example the serious illness of a family member- not a holiday’. 

I suppose his dad Stanley’s regular visits to his second home in Greece come under that category.

Boris and Co have decreed that a holiday is ‘not essential’.

Boris has form when it comes to dithering. We went into lockdown in 2020 too late. He dithered when Covid rampaged through India – allowing 20,000 potentially infected people to arrive in the UK in a week before he closed the border. (At a time when Brits couldn’t go on holiday anywhere!)

Now, he has dithered too long over his unworkable holiday road map – but this time, the public have rebelled.

The number of scheduled flights to Greece, France and Italy will soar by 200% in the next three days. Tui – the UK’s biggest operator – has flights to Corfu, Kos, Rhodes, and Cuba.

Over 270,000 people will travel to countries on the Amber list by the end of the weekend. Boris and the doom-mongers have failed, but ordinary folk end up will be paying for his ineptitude.

Has the whole traffic light debacle been dreamt up to placate the Border staff at airports – where under-manning, lack of technology and increased paperwork for each passenger, has seen six-hour queues which shame a first world country? Instead of saving the NHS, are we being duped into saving Passport control?

This year, smoking will kill more people than Covid.

Death rates from all causes are 20% below the five-year average.

Time to let us go on holiday – we’ve stuck to all those rules for months – now we’ve earned some fun.

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