‘Whatever it was that triggered “amber plus” and put France on it, the stated reason of rising Beta cases don’t hold up to further inspection – Robert Boyle
After a special quarantine category, “amber plus,” was created for France, a leading analyst has said the stated reasons are simply wrong.
Late on Friday 16 juillet, the government said anyone returning from France must quarantine, even if they have been double-vaccinated by the NHS. It set France apart from all other “liste ambre” countries, from which returning travellers who have been vaccinated by the NHS need not quarantine.
The reason given by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) was the “persistent presence of cases in France of the Beta variant”. This was first identified in South Africa.
But Robert Boyle, former director of strategy at British Airways’ parent company, IAG, has analysed French government data and found that the number of Beta variant cases of coronavirus in mainland France over the summer has declined.
Cases reached peaks of just over 120 on several days in the first half of June. In the week leading up to the UK government’s announcement, they averaged around 60.
“Whatever it was that triggered the government’s decision to create the amber plus list and put France on it, the stated reason of rising Beta cases don’t hold up to further inspection,” Mr Boyle wrote in a blog post.
“I can’t see how Beta would ever be able to get a sustainable foothold in the UK. It is outcompeted by Delta, with or without vaccines.”
At the time of the government’s announcement there was speculation in the travel industry and in France that the UK government had included Réunion – the Indian Ocean island that is technically a French département – in its analysis of the risks.
During the week leading up to the announcement, around one-third of Beta variant cases for France as a whole were identified in Réunion.
“Even if the Réunion figures were included, it still seems like a very ‘trigger happy’ response,” said Mr Boyle.
“It would of course be embarrassing to acknowledge that they got it wrong because of a ‘spreadsheet error,’ but they could easily point to further reassuring data on declining Beta cases in France and to newly published evidence from Canada about vaccine effectiveness against Beta as the reason for the change.
“What they certainly shouldn’t do in my opinion is to ‘double down’ on the amber list by adding Spain and Greece to it, as some have been speculating that they might.”
L'indépendant has invited the DHSC to respond.