HomeTravelSimon Calder’s latest expert answers to 36 of your traffic light travel...

Simon Calder’s latest expert answers to 36 of your traffic light travel questions


The travel correspondent of The Independent is normally to be found in the chic lounges of Mallorca, sharing a joke and a lightly chilled bottle of Segura Viudas cava with the cast of Love Island. But he paused the media banter for an hour to answer your pressing travel issues live.

This is the compilation of the key questions and answers.

Quarantine questions

Q: If I am returning from Spain to UK on 17 July and am fully UK vaccinated, do I need to self-isolate for a full 10 days, or can I stop on 19 July, assuming my day two test is negative?

Anonymous

A: Anyone already quarantining when the new easier rules for vaccinated British travellers begin at 4am on Monday 19 July must continue to self-isolate. You must complete the whole sentence.

Q: What if a family of three (two parents and one three-year old) fly back from an amber country but only of the parents is double-vaccinated? Do all three have to self-isolate or only the adult who is unjabbed?

VAS

A: Only the parent who has not been fully jabbed need self-isolate.

Traffic light moves

Q: Do you think France will turn green sometime in August? When do you think England will accept European citizens who were vaccinated outside of the UK?

Elizabeth N

A: France was discussed as a possible candidate for red list status, according to reports, so a green rating is a long way away.

My guess is that the UK will finally accept EU vaccination status within the first half of August. But I’m not going to take any bets on those two predictions.

Indian variant of AstraZeneca

Q: My airline has Malta still showing as not accepting the Covishield/Indian made AstraZeneca vaccine. As three of our party have unfortunately had one dose of this vaccine, what can we do?

Nikki Staffs

A: I have the following statement from the Maltese government, issued on Thursday morning. “Malta will allow persons from the UK to enter as long as they have the NHS Covid Pass. This includes persons who have had the two jabs of the AstraZeneca vaccines approved by the UK’S Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.”

In other words, if you have an NHS vaccination confirmation (eg on the app or the free NHS Covid letter) then Malta will now let you in.

Any airline that denies you boarding incorrectly will be liable to pay you compensation.

Q: Do you know what the situation is regarding the vaccine status of those of us with the Indian AstraZeneca vaccine trying go to France? I was hoping to visit family there in August but am concerned I won’t be let in.

Sue W

A: I have received exactly no confirmed cases of anyone with the Indian variant of the AstraZeneca jab having been turned away from France. I have also talked to ferry companies, and they say they are unaware of any such cases either. I am going to France at the weekend with my Indian jab and I hope not to encounter any problems.

And on a similar theme …

Q: Do you know if France are actively turning travellers that have been vaccinated with Covishield away? I’m fully vaccinated but my second jab was the AstraZeneca Covishield one and I am due to travel to France on holiday on 31st July. I’ve seen reports in the Telegraph today that France, Italy and Croatia are not likely to accept Covishield for some weeks yet – do you have any advice on what I should do?

Schofe P

A: As mentioned earlier, the only country for which I am aware there has been any denying of boarding because of the AstraZeneca/Serum Institute of India issue is Malta. If you hear that I get turned away this weekend, then fret, otherwise please don’t.

Q: I’m getting married in Santorini end of August. Do you think there’s any chance it could go red? I’ve been hearing rumours but I don’t understand what’s behind them.

Very stressed bride

A: Congratulations to you and your fiance(e). The Greek islands have been swinging around all over the place in terms of infection levels, and there have been some very serious peaks: right now I calculate Santorini has new cases at a rate around twice as high as the UK.

Yet at this stage I would be as relaxed as possible because case rates can fall very quickly. I would happily book to travel to that wonderful island for late August, and I hope everything goes ahead splendidly.

Jab journeys

Q: I am due to fly from the UK to Greece on 16 August for two weeks. I will have had my second vaccine five days before I leave.

I am aware I will not be classed as fully vaccinated when I leave as 14 days will not have passed since my second jab so I will need to test to enter Greece. However when I return to the UK, 14 days will have passed. So will I be classed as fully vaccinated then and therefore be able to avoid quarantine?

Kay W

A: Both Greece and the UK recognise someone as fully vaccinated only when they have waited 14 days after the last jab. So, yes, you will need “either a negative PCR certificate from a testing laboratory, for a Covid-19 test taken no later than 72 hours before arrival or a negative antigen (rapid) certificate taken no longer than 48 hours before arrival”. I would go for the the latter.

Coming back to the UK, the vaccine will be fully effective and you can happily come back in without self-isolation.

Q: My wife has her maiden name on passport and flight booking and married name on vaccine certificate. Will Spain accept this as they do not match? And if not is there a way around it as any test would be in married name also?

Dave 81

A: It’s a nightmare scenario, and one I asked the UK government to respond to a week ago. I am still waiting. All I can suggest is taking marriage certificate and any other supporting evidence of your wife’s dual identity.

Testing times

Q: We’re in Mallorca at the moment (and having a wonderful time!) We know we need a pre-flight test before we return to the UK. But we are not sure if it should be a PCR or antigen rapid flow one? The government website says both suffice but surely the PCR one is preferable as it’s more accurate?

Geema 10

A: Go with the lateral flow. Cheap and quick. You are far more likely to be infected in the UK than you are in Mallorca.

Q: Flying back from Greece to the UK – do I need to book the day two test before I fly into the UK, or can I just do this on my return?

BFB

A: You cannot complete the passenger locator form for the UK without having a PCR test booked on day two, and you can’t get on a plane to the UK without a completed passenger locator form. So you must do it in advance.

Q: I want to fly back to the UK from Greece then the next day fly out of the UK again. Do I need to book/pay/take a day two test for my passenger locator form on return from Greece even when I won’t be in the UK on day two?

Julia

A: Unfortunately the passenger locator form – which you must complete before you travel to the UK – only allows for no PCR test if you are continuing your journey on the same day. So I believe you will need to book and pay for a day to test, which you can take immediately on landing.

Q: I’m a bit unsure with regards to the testing requirements. I have family in Spain and I have seen flights that depart the UK at 6pm on a Thursday and return at 4.30pm on the Sunday. I am looking at taking a test in the UK prior to my flight on Thursday and return to the UK using that test. Would that be OK, or is the requirement that the test is within 72 hours of the time you depart for the UK? What would happen if I’m delayed a few hours?

Sean R

A: All good: if you have a flight to the UK scheduled to depart on a Sunday, then you can take the test on the Thursday, Friday or Saturday. It would be very unusual to have an eight-hour delay, potentially scuppering the test you take, so I would proceed exactly as you intend. Buen viaje.

Q: Is the long European weekender on again for the double jabbed using the outgoing test done in the UK? Test and fly on Tuesday, return on Friday direct back to the UK. It seems to be OK when reading the government website – I’m just concerned about the use of their words “within three days of the original test”.

Paul M

A: Yes all fine. Any of the three days before departure to the UK. I am being tested on Friday for my return on Monday.

Q: Is there any chance that the requirement for a pre departure test before your flight back to England will be withdrawn this year? I am particularly interested for fully vaccinated individuals and I am looking to travel in September onwards.

AC

A: I think the pre-departure test before travel to the UK will be about the last one to go. Even though the government for many months last year maintained such a test was completely pointless, its tune seems to have changed compeltely.

Test-to-fly has the added advantage of (hopefully) identifying people who are infectious and therefore preventing them from boarding a flight.

The Day 2 PCR test for green/vaccinated amber will go first, I reckon. It is an expensive waste for almost everyone.

UK arrival rules

Q: Is there any hope that the UK government will sort out the issue with EU vaccine passports soon. I am fully vaccinated and yet can’t see loved ones back in the UK because I live in am amber country (Germany). Related to this: why on earth is Germany not on the green list? I do not understand. Is it politics?

Ali Cuff

A: Only British vaccinations accepted because the UK government wants to verify all certificates, apparently. Hopefully will reach agreement/tech solution with European Union soon. The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, is due to say more in the next few days.

Every country in Europe except Cyprus has lower coronavirus infection rates than the UK. But the government insists “All classification changes are decided by ministers. These are informed by the latest data and analysis by the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) and wider public health factors.”

American adventures

Q: I commuted back and forth to the US for work for 10 years until the pandemic struck, are there any signs I might me allowed back in any time soon? I’ve been double jabbed since May and have a visa.

Jonny R

A: There’s chatter overnight that President Biden may be considering easing the proclamation that bans British visitors going direct to the US. But nothing definite yet, I’m afraid. Meanwhile you can always launder your status in Mexico for a couple of weeks, though be warned that carries some risk that the Americans could impose a ban on arrivals from their southern neighbour.

Should I pay the balance to Turkey?

Q: I’m due to go to Turkey in September. I’ve been asked for the balance of my holiday. If Turkey is the red zone, will Jet2 start cancelling holidays to Turkey? Why have I got to pay the balance for a holiday that won’t happen?

Tasmin

A: Jet2 has been admirable throughout the coronavirus pandemic in its customer focus and good service. In the past 36 hours the Leeds-based holiday company has cancelled all its Turkey trips up to and including 11 August – the next likely date when it might be moved from red to amber.

It is not unreasonable for travel firms to ask for the balance for a holiday in accordance with their conditions. And, if you can afford to do so, pay the balance. While I have no idea what will happen in the next few weeks, there is a significant possibility that your trip will go ahead as normal, in which case you should have a happy and safe holiday.

There is some likelihood that the trip will be cancelled. If that happens, you can expect a full refund of the whole cost of the trip within two weeks.

It may sound counter-intuitive to pay out more money to guarantee either a holiday or your money back, but that is the way the system works. Deciding not to pay the balance would mean that you lose the deposit.

Travel insurance is not relevant. If the trip does not go ahead, the holiday company must refund you.

Italian connections

Q: I need to pay the balance for a trip to Italy, which is happening the first week of August. When are we likely to find out whether or not Italy will extend its five-day quarantine rule (upon arrival) for UK travellers beyond its current date of 30 July?

Anonymous

A: See my earlier comments about balances. Italy likely to say in the next week or so what its policy will be from 31 July.

Irish plans

Q: Please can you explain the situation about travel from Great Britain to Ireland. There’s a lot of confusion. Can fully vaccinated travellers enter without tests/quarantine from 19 July?

Callum

A: Three days away from the day when I was hoping journeys from the UK to Ireland would be easier, and I’m sorry to say I’m none the wiser.

Positive tests abroad

Q: Have you heard of any “test to release” procedures available if you do have a positive test abroad? Or do most of Europe insist on the full self isolation time scale ? We are travelling to Crete next week so obviously focusing on Greece.

Sjm 34

A: If you receive a positive result from a Covid test at any time, you must follow the rules applied by the health authorities in the country you are in,

Here’s what I know about testing positive in Greece: “Mandatory isolation if they test positive for SARS-Cov-2, following a sampling test. In this case, the travellers and their travel companions are accommodated in quarantine hotels, where they will undergo further PCR testing to confirm the initial diagnosis. Guests will stay in seclusion hotels for a maximum of 10 days. The expenses of the accommodation in quarantine hotels are covered by the Greek state.”

Which isn’t ideal but it’s much better than some countries, where you cover the cost.

Q: What happens if you’ve had Covid in the 30 days prior to your holiday and therefore your test to fly pre-return flight comes back positive but from previous infection. Would you have to quarantine in the country you’re returning from?

Also if you made it back but day two test positive- also due to previous infection, where does that leave you? (My daughter has Covid now and we are going to Greece in just under three weeks.)

Mazeyfam

A: As above, anyone heading overseas has to take the risk that a pre-departure to the UK test will be positive – at which point it is your duty to inform the authorities in the country you are in and allow their rules to take the natural course.

Any positive PCR test back in the UK will trigger quarantine, I’m afraid.

Previous infections

Q: Please advise about travel after recent Covid infection – PCR may be positive for 90 days so how can I travel with my children who have had it recently? US make allowances for covid recovery – what are the U.K. doing about this? Massive issue for thousands of people.

Ridgeway 1

A: For test-before-travel back to the UK, don’t use a hypersensitive PCR test – lateral flow is cheaper, faster and less likely to give the impression someone is infectious when they are not, I understand.

Q: Do you know if there will be any update to guidance on travel for those recently recovered from Covid? Can test positive for up to 90 days after, the EU and USA recognise the issue and allow proof of recovery but currently UK doesn’t.

BVH

A: The EU makes allowances for people recently recovered from Covid, but as with so many aspects of the coronavirus pandemic, the UK is an exception to standard practice. I cannot see this changing imminently. Sorry.

Red list requests

Q: Will Qatar or the UAE ever realistically come off the red list this year?

“Leescottrob”

A: Not according to the transport secretary. Grant Shapps says they are red because they are global aviation hubs. I see no prospect of this changing by the end of the year.

Q: Thoughts on the Maldives being downgraded to the amber list before September? We are due to go there for our honeymoon

A Smith 92

A: Maldives has a good chance of reverting to amber in August. So keep the hope alive. Be warned that if your flights are via Dubai or Doha, you will be required to go into hotel quarantine on arrival in the UK because they are red listed.

Q: We are due to go to Mallorca on 30 July for a week. Can the UK government send it straight to red before the next review ? I’m worried about going from amber to red with little notice.

Rachy 10

A: There has been a lot of speculation that Mallorca and the other Balearics could go onto the red list, requiring hotel quarantine. I think this is highly unlikely, largely because I do not believe the “managed quarantine” system in the UK would be able to cope with tens of thousands of people coming back from the Spanish islands and going straight into hotels for 11 nights.

But of course nothing is certain … having said that, I would happily go, on the basis that we are likely to be given up to a week’s notice to get back in before quarantine becomes mandatory.

Spain speculation

Q: We fly to Mallorca for two weeks on 31 July. My wife tested positive on 11 July, even though she is fully vaccinated. She has had hardly any symptoms but we are worried what will happen if her PCR test still shows positive when we take the test to come back to UK?

Jon W

A: All I will do at this stage is re-state that you do not need to take a PCR test to get on a plane train or ferry back to the UK. A less sensitive lateral flow test will suffice.

Q: I have an apartment booked in Gran Canaria on 20 August for 11 nights but can only cancel until 3 August. Should I cancel in case Spain gets put on the red list? I have seen some good deals in Jamaica in the middle of August with first choice do you think this will be a safer bet?

Aidan 436

A: I love Jamaica, but at this stage I am certainly not planning to visit the island imminently. Partly that is because I find summer in the Caribbean disagreeable because of the hot, humid climate – a world away from the ocean breezes of the canaries. As mentioned earlier, I think it very unlikely that any part of Spain will be added to the red list, and would very happily book the Canaries for late August.

Q: We are double jabbed and travelling by ferry to Spain and then driving to the Algarve. You don’t need a test for Spain but if you flew directly into Portugal you do even if you are vaccinated. The Spain/Portugal border is open with no checks. Will you be expected to have a test beforehand or is this the “Spanish swerve”?

Bearders 22

A: People from the UK arriving in Portugal by road, as you will be, must be fully vaccinated (completed at least 14 days earlier) or quarantine for two weeks. So you do not need to test.

My usual reminder that driving in continental Europe is far more dangerous than flying to your destination. Stay safe.

Unaccompanied minors

Q: We read that (UK) vaccinated people and children under 18 will be able to avoid quarantine upon return from amber list countries. Is that any child or just if accompanied by a vaccinated parent? Also what if an unvaccinated (or vaccinated abroad) person enters the UK and leaves the same day? I live in Switzerland, wondering if I can go the the UK to bring my kids over.

Matt C

A: “Children under the age of 18 to be exempt from quarantine on returning to England from amber countries.” So unaccompanied under 18s all fine. And yes you can turn up for as little as an hour if you like.

Post-Brexit passport problems

Q: When the UK government passport checker gives you a date for valid travel to Europe, is this the actual date by which you can travel and return, or do you need to build on top the requirement for a passport to have six months validity after return? I have contacted the Passport Office and they won’t give me an answer.

Mel L

A: I have repeatedly told the government that its online information about the validity of British passports in the European Union/Schengen area is wrong. Officials do not appear interested in correcting it. Generally the UK government’s (inaccurate) passport checker is very conservative, so if it says you’re good to go then you can be pretty sure you will not encounter problems.

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