Grant Shapps will today take to Twitter and, in time-honoured tradition, ruin thousands of peoples’ holidays. If you’re abroad right now, you’ll be waiting on tenter hooks to find out if the sword of traffic-light damocles is hanging over your sun lounger, while if you’re packed and ready to jet off you’ll be sat in trepidation refreshing your phone. And the smartest ones among you will be on Skyscanner, looking to book flights the moment Shapps hits ‘send’.
The traffic light system has governed our travel since the skies reopened back in May. Familiar from any number of bacchanalian student house parties, the system uses Red, Amber and Green to denote just how covid-y other countries are perceived to be, and add a list of requirements to anyone who visits. Red means you’ll have to fork out £2,285 on your return to stay in an Orange Is The New Black immersive reenactment for eleven days. Amber comes with the misery of having to spend ten days in your home with your whining children (if you’re not fully vaxxed), taking various exploitatively expensive tests along the way, and green means you can come and go as you please. Green is the good one.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is expected to make the announcement this afternoon. Unlike other Covid updates it’s unlikely this will happen in the form of a press conference or a parliamentary speech, but simply at the press of a button and a reply list of outraged gifs.
Free to scoff this afternoon when it's proven to be completely wrong...
So what do we know? Well, foolishly, we’re writing this hours before the announcement is actually made. So feel free to scoff this afternoon when it’s proven to be completely wrong, when France is on the Red List and the government have invented a brand new colour to add to the list (as, in fact, happened with the short-lived Amber Plus designation attached to France).
Now that the Amber List has lost its sting, thanks to the introduction of quarantine-free travel for everyone other than vaccine-deniers, the real focus is on the 60-country-strong Red List. Countries that are heading ONTO the list and those coming OFF.
The real focus is on the 60-country-strong Red List...
The rumour is that honeymooner and James Bond favourite Jamaica is likely to be Red-Listed as coronavirus numbers there continue to climb.
Countries expected to be joining Jamaica on the Red List naughty step are St Lucia, Aruba and Morocco, according to data analyst and journalist Tim White. Describing the Jamaica decision White tweeted “The island’s now taken measures to control the Covid-19 outbreak. I know a lot are predicting it stays amber, but sadly I think the positive test rates are just too high. It’s a very close call, but I think red.”
It's impossible to track every single country and #Caribbean is difficult to predict because so many small islands#Aruba stood out with a very high % of travellers returning to UK infected in the NHS data. It was a very small sample, but high rates back home mean I predict🔴
— Tim White (@TWMCLtd) August 24, 2021
Equally important are countries making their way off the Red List. Predictions are that Turkey will finally be reclassified as Amber. Which is a boon for anyone looking for some late summer sun.
The Eastern Med country sought to make its case via the Turkish Embassy in London, which said that scientific data “supports our expectation” that Turkey “will be removed from the red list at the upcoming review”.
Apparently numbers in Turkey are now lower than they are in the UK, with the seven-day average in Turkey standing at 232.46 cases per 100,000 people, compared with 464.76 in Britain. Numbers ministers may take with a pinch of salt given our advanced testing programme.
Pakistan, also, may be able to make it to the Amber List. Given the huge British Pakistani population this will certainly be welcome as families will once again be able to reunite. If Grant Shapps wills it.
What isn’t expected, however, is a wholesale revamping of the list. It’s unlikely that we’ll see any huge surprises today with senior Whitehall sources suggesting that today’s announcement is unlikely to affect as many holidaymakers as past reviews.
Today's announcement is unlikely to affect as many holidaymakers as past reviews...
Of course if you’re in the vast majority of Brits who have decided to staycate this summer, then you simply won’t care what happens. As long as Shapps doesn’t add Cornwall to the Red List then everything will be okay.
Although Cornwall does have 769.7 cases per 100,000 people, far more than many Red List countries…