Jess Phillips: Government’s traffic light system for travel is confused, stupid and dangerous – Boris Johnson can’t say he wasn’t warned

Jess Phillips: Government’s traffic light system for travel is confused, stupid and dangerous – Boris Johnson can’t say he wasn’t warned
There is no need to have an amber list. We should just have a clear list of countries we can visit and countries we can’t

My mate, let’s call her Amber for the purposes of a thinly veiled gag and to keep her confidentiality, sent me a WhatsApp message this week of a newspaper headline that read: “Spain to allow visitors from the UK for holidays from Monday – but British government says don’t go.”

Amber had booked to travel to Spain at the end of June. She and her husband timed it with them both being fully vaccinated and the expected roadmap and all of the musings that had gone before.

The other women on the WhatsApp group, all intelligent, reasonable professional women, followed up with messages that read, “what does this mean?”, “what an absolute s**t show”, and “I have no idea what is going on or if I can go”. Amber is confused.

I am constantly told that Twitter isn’t a fair representation of the British public and I don’t disagree, but from what I have seen this week, I can guarantee that this WhatsApp exchange was likely happening up and down the country over the last week. I guess it is an example of the cabinet being in tune with the public because it would seem that the WhatsApp group of Tory ministers was equally confused.

The guidance is that travel is legally permitted and people need not prove an essential reason for travel nor will face penalties for travelling to a country which is not on the green list. The environment secretary, George Eustice, said that the amber list of countries was for people who “feel they need to travel to visit family and friends”. The prime minister disagreed and said, “it’s very important for people to grasp what an amber list country is: it is not somewhere you should be going on holiday”.

At this moment we are all as a nation grateful that Cabinet ministers have chauffeurs because they seem not to understand traffic lights. It turns out that the traffic light system for travel abroad floated by the government is anything but clear – to the point that even they don’t understand it.

I will no doubt be accused of babying the British people in what I am writing. Of course, we are in a pandemic and things have to change because, well, the situation changes. The reality as I see it, however, is that this confusion has come about because the government is babying British people and cannot just be honest with us about the situation.

The entire amber list category of countries exists, as best as I can tell, to give the illusion of openness and hope without the actual delivery of it. If you should not go to the amber list countries, surely they are red? Red: don’t go. Green: go.

The problem has arisen because of what can only be described as a complete and utter and consistent failure of this government to manage the issue of our borders. For a government which gets dressed up for photo shoots to talk about how strict they are with our borders, they have continually failed for over a year to get a proper handle on the flow of people in and out of the country.

The current wobble on the amber issue is undoubtedly because of the growing concern over the variants. And the fact that the quarantine system put in place by the government some months ago was arguably many months too late – but even then only 1 per cent of people travelling to our country were ever placed in quarantine.

Now nobody likes an “I told you so”, but the Labour party did say over and over again since quarantine started that it wasn’t working. We tried to compel the government in a vote in the commons to have quarantine for all arrivals to the UK; they voted against it. I fear that for months the prime minister has failed to grasp that people shouldn’t come from amber list countries. Thanks to his own lack of grasp and failure to put India on the red list, he has allowed thousands of people to arrive from India. Lo and behold the India variant of Covid-19 is ripping through our towns.

British people have been amazing at sticking to the rules for the most part. Sure, they will be disappointed not to be able to go on holidays to countries that are not completely green list safe, but they will do it. Nobody wants further lockdowns based on this failure. Pretending to us that things are easier than they are is demeaning, stupid and has turned out to be dangerous and costly.

There is no need to have an amber list. We should just have a clear list of countries we can visit and countries we can’t. We, the British people, won’t fail to understand if it doesn’t look like a traffic light; we are also familiar with on and off switches and yes and no options. It is not rocket science beyond our comprehension. Amber is still confused.

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