Italy could be added to new amber watch list to warn travellers it could swiftly turn red

Italy could be added to a new ‘amber watch list’ with Spain to warn British holidaymakers the country could join the red list at the last minute.

Ministers are considering shelving the amber-plus category for foreign travel that forces travellers to quarantine at home on their return even if double jabbed, i reported yesterday.

But a new ‘amber watch list’ has been mooted for countries such as Spain and Greece where Covid case rates are on the rise.

If European holiday hotspots were to turn red at short notice, it could see families hit with huge bills for hotel quarantine on their return or a scramble to end their trips early and get back before any deadline.

The amber watch list would operate in a similar way to the green watch list which warns travellers that countries could move to the amber list at short notice. Double jabbed Britons do not need to quarantine when returning from the amber list but those who are not fully jab must do so at home for 10 days.

But according to a report in The Times, Italy could also join Spain on any new list. Both are currently on the amber list.

On Thursday evening, Italy extended quarantine rules for British arrivals for a further month, meaning those entering Italy from the UK will need to show a negative Covid test, self-isolate for five days, and then get tested again before their isolation ends.

Amid widespread speculation that Spain could be added to a new amber watch list category, the Foreign Secretary yesterday refused to rule out the creation of an amber watch list – or deny reports that Spain could be added.

“I can’t rule things out that the JBC [Joint Biosecurity Centre] and the government will decide, but they’ll make that decision next week in terms of the traffic light system for all the relevant countries,” he told Sky News.

During the early months of the pandemic, Italy was one of the hardest hit European nations. Cases are now rising again in the popular tourist destination, with nearly 5,700 new cases recorded on Thursday, according to the World Health Organisation.

Over the past seven days, there has been an average of 57 confirmed cases per 100,000 people, figures from Reuters show.

These figures are still significantly lower than Spain, which has seen 367 infections per 100,000 people reported in the last 7 days. Daily new cases in the country, which is the most popular for UK holidaymakers, have ranged from 15,000 to 21,000, according to World Health Organisation data.

In the UK, 25,402 new cases were recorded on Thursday, and the seven-day average rate of infection currently stands at around 298 per 100,000.

There are also concerns around Greece’s status at the next travel review.

As infections rise, the south Aegean islands were marked ‘dark red’ on the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control’s Covid map on Thursday, meaning that non-essential travel to the region is discouraged.

The cluster of 13 islands includes Greece’s most popular tourist destinations: Mykonos, Santorini and Rhodes.

How does the traffic light system work?

The UK Government has placed countries under different levels restrictions according to the coronavirus risk they pose.

The green list is the least restrictive category, with travellers allowed to return from green list destinations without quaranting when they return to the UK.

For those travelling to amber list countries, the restrictions they will have to follow depends on their vaccination status; fully vaccinated Britons do not have to quarantine on their return home, while unvaccinated or partially vaccinated travellers do.

For red list countries, travellers must spend ten days in a quarantine hotel at a cost of £1750 once they arrive in the UK, where they will be under mandatory isolation and tested during their stay.

Some British travellers told i yesterday that they would still travel to destinations which could be moved to the red list at short notice.