Bulgaria And Hong Kong Make UK Green List, Balearics Back On Amber

The UK’s revised green list has been updated today, pulled forward 24 hours from its usual slot for the week. Added to the list of safe travel destinations are Hong Kong, Taiwan, Croatia and Bulgaria. However, the popular holiday hotspot of the Balearic Islands has slipped back to amber, meaning those already on vacation who are not double jabbed will be forced to isolate on their return. The changes take effect at 04:00 on Monday, July 19th.

easyJet green list
More summer holiday chaos for UK airlines and travelers as the green list undergoes a shakeup again. Photo: easyJet

Green list additions

From Monday, July 19th at 04:00, two new destinations will appear firmly on the UK government’s green list for travel. These are Hong Kong and Bulgaria, which were added in a new update this evening. Usually, these updates happen on a Thursday, but the announcement was brought forward by 24 hours for unknown reasons.

Also added to the green list are Croatia and Taiwan. However, Grant Shapps, UK Secretary of State for Transport, noted that these are on the so-called ‘green watchlist,’ meaning they could be moved to amber at any time.

So does this open up opportunities for travel-hungry Brits to get away? Not so much. The UK is in Bulgaria’s ‘orange zone,’ which means that arrivals will have to carry a vaccination certificate or a negative PCR test result. Added to this, the FCDO currently advises against all but essential travel to Bulgaria, meaning most travel insurances would be invalid.

As for Hong Kong, adding this destination to the green list is a completely pointless exercise. No passenger flights from the UK are allowed to land in Hong Kong, and anyone arriving there who has been in the UK in the past 21 days will be prohibited entry. Taiwan is similarly closed entirely.

Cathay Pacific plane Hong Kong
Hong Kong is closed, as is Taiwan. Photo: Getty Images

Croatia is a possibility, but an antigen or PCR test is still required. However, with the notification that the country could go amber at any time, the uncertainty is likely to put many would-be visitors off.

Summer plans ruined for some

Just two weeks after the popular islands of the Balearics were added to the green list, the UK government has set them back to amber again. This means that anyone planning to visit Mallorca, Ibiza, Formentera or Menorca in the near future now has a potential added layer of complexity involved.

Ryanair Boeing 737 In Amsterdam
Just weeks after being cleared for travel, the Balearics have gone amber again. Photo: Getty Images.

For those who are double jabbed, this won’t’ make much difference, as the UK is allowing quarantine-free travel to and from amber list destinations for anyone who is fully vaccinated. However, anyone who is presently on the islands and has not completed their course of vaccinations will be required to self-isolate at home for 10 days, taking a PCR test on day two and day eight.

Also added to the amber list are the British Virgin Islands. And the red list has four new countries joining the many already there, which are Cuba, Indonesia, Myanmar and Sierra Leone.

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Travel industry furious

Understandably, the travel industry is furious at today’s announcement. Just as airlines and tourism businesses were starting to ramp things up to green list destinations, the goalposts have moved again.

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, which represents British-registered carriers, said,

“Today’s announcement reinforces the belief that the current government framework for international travel is not working as it was designed to … Moving countries between the tiers like this is shattering consumer trust during an already unpredictable booking season.

“It is time the government implemented a consistent and transparent travel policy, rather than the current rollercoaster ride of changes, which is condemning international travel to the status of second-class citizen.“

Virginia Messina, WTTC Senior Vice President, said,

“This will throw summer holidays into disarray for tens of thousands of people. Businesses given the lifeline of holidays to the Balearics will also be left floundering as bookings collapse and customers clamour for refunds, piling on further financial pressure.

“There may be some good news with Croatia and Bulgaria moving up the scale and being added to the green list. But the overall impact is one of confusion, which will only deter more Brits from holidaying abroad as the summer season slips away.”

The logic being applied to the UK’s traffic light system beggars belief. Countries such as Poland, Hungary and Romania are maintaining an incidence of fewer than 10 cases per 100,000 people and yet remain off the safe travel list. In contrast, the incidence in Croatia stands at 26.17 and in Bulgaria at 14.7.