Amber-listed Balearic Islands report higher Covid rates than some red list countries

Amber-listed Balearic Islands report higher Covid rates than some red list countries
‘Highlights inconsistency of traffic light decision-making,’ says travel consultant

The amber-listed Balearic Islands are recording higher rates of Covid-19 than some countries that are currently on the UK’s red list.

The latest data from the popular Spanish holiday islands, which include Mallorca, Ibiza and Menorca, shows that infections have rocketed to 519 per 100,000 residents over the past 14 days.

By comparison, tourist favourite Turkey, which has been on the red list since the government first introduced its traffic light system for international travel in May, is currently reporting a rate of 82 per 100,000, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

Other red list destinations that are reporting lower coronavirus case rates according to ECDC data include Sri Lanka (98) and the Maldives (323).

The Balearics were previously rated green, but were downgraded to amber at the latest Department for Transport (DfT) reshuffle on 14 July, with the change coming into effect at 4am on 19 July.

Some travel experts have called into question the government’s methodology when classifying countries after the Balearics’ latest numbers.

Paul Charles, CEO of travel consultancy the PC Agency, said the apparent disparity “Highlights inconsistency of traffic light decision-making.”

Decisions on the travel traffic light lists are made by the Joint Biosecurity Centre, which assesses a number of factors when determining whether destinations should be red, amber or green.

Key factors in assessing a country’s risk factor are its rate of infection, the prevalence of variants of concern and the progress of its vaccination programme. Reliability of data and genomic sequencing capability are also taken into account.

International travel hubs, such as the UAE, are also deemed to be high risk due to the number of passengers catching connecting flights from all over the world.

Two major aviation players are in the process of taking legal action against the government over its lack of transparency regarding decisionmaking on international travel.

Ryanair and Manchester Airports Group (MAG), which also owns London Stansted and East Midlands airports, last month launched a legal challenge against the government to reveal the basis for decisions on the “traffic light” allocation of nations.

The court papers name the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, and the health secretary, Matt Hancock, as defendants.

“The whole travel sector recognises the critical importance of protecting public health, and we have facilitated every measure the government has required in response to Covid-19,” said Charlie Cornish, chief executive of MAG.

“However, recent developments suggest that the government is now unwilling to open up international travel by putting low risk countries on the green list

“For most countries, the traffic light seems to be stuck on amber for no obvious reason, despite having prevalence rates much lower than the UK.

“The government is not being open and we simply cannot understand how it is making decisions that are fundamental to our ability to plan, and to giving customers the confidence to book travel ahead.”

The UK’s own 14-day Covid rate per 100,000 people currently stands at 583.