The Transport Secretary defended the traffic light system despite fury that it has caused confusion and chaos among travellers.
He urged people to be ‘patient’ rather than booking trips to ‘amber’ rated destinations, pointing out that the roster of places classed as safe to visit is being reviewed at the start of next month.
The entreaties came amid calls for countries such as France, Spain, Italy and Greece to be added to the ‘green list’, with warnings that the UK travel industry is being left behind as Europe reopens.
EasyJet reported an eye-watering underlying loss of £701 million for the six months to March 31 this morning.
And chief executive Johan Lundgren suggested the government was using polls and focus groups to make decisions rather than following the evidence.
‘We have looked at the data that is available and the scientific evidence shows that you have a number of countries in Europe that are now on the amber list that should go into the green list.
‘You can see that that is happening in Europe as we speak. European travel is opening up at large scale.’
Portugal is currently the only major tourist destination on the ‘green list’. Pictured, Albufeira
Grant Shapps today held out the prospect of expending the ‘green list’ within weeks amid calls for France, Spain, Italy and Greece to be added
In a round of interviews, Mr Shapps urged the public to have ‘a little more patience as the world catches up with our vaccine programme’.
Travellers returning to Britain from an amber location must quarantine at home for 10 days and take a pre-departure test and two post-arrival tests.
‘There’s a heck of a lot of hassle involved,’ Mr Shapps told Sky News.
‘It’s expensive. We’re not at the stage of saying to people, go to those places on holiday, in fact, please don’t.’
Portugal is currently the only major tourist destination on the ‘green list’.
But Mr Shapps said he wanted to see more countries added.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today: ‘The amber list and the red list are not for holidaymakers, that’s not the purpose of those lists at this time.
‘We just think that after a year of lockdowns in this country, of people coming forward in record numbers to get their vaccines, we do not want to be in a position of taking risks at this stage about our unlock.’
Asked if he was pushing for the green list to be extended he said: ‘Of course. The reason for that is we have ended up getting way ahead in terms of our vaccination programme in this country and we are just having to wait for other countries to catch up with us.
‘That’s going to gradually happen, obviously, you can see it’s happening, so that list should expand.’
The seven-day infection rates per million people have been coming down in France, Greece, Spain and Italy
EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren suggested the government was using polls and focus groups to make decisions rather than following the evidence
Mr Shapps added: ‘We are reviewing this all the time, every three weeks, the next review is in the first week of June and we’ll have to see what happens.
Mr Shapps added: ‘Our message is very straightforward, which is ‘just a little bit of patience, everyone’.
‘I know it’s been an incredibly tough year and there are extreme circumstance where people will feel that it is the right thing to do – perhaps because they have a sick family member and some extreme situations where they’ll travel in the orange category.
‘But by and large we are just asking people to be a little bit patient as other countries catch up with our world-leading vaccination programme and then people will be able to, I hope, travel.
‘We are returning to a world which looks more normal, I hope.’