More than 100 “red listed” countries have better Coronavirus rates than some of the Government’s approved holiday or “safe” destinations, as ministers refused to publish the full criteria behind their decisions.
An analysis by the Daily Telegraph shows six countries exempted from quarantine have worse rates than the UK.
Turks and Caicos and Luxembourg, two holiday destinations sanctioned by the Government, have higher Covid-19 rates per 100,000 of the population than Portugal, which was red listed by the Government.
Even supposedly “safe” countries like France, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands have at least 50 “red listed” countries which actually have better Covid-19 rates than them.
Ministers have been accused of lack of transparency and an ad hoc approach by critics including one of Britain’s most popular holiday destinations Portugal, which is demanding its reinstatement.
The “absurdity'' is highlighted by two Portuguese holiday island destinations Madeira and the Azores which have been given the green light for safe travel by the Foreign Office but visitors returning from them are still subject to 14 day UK quarantine.
Madeira has had no new cases in the past fortnight, while the Azores has had just six, giving them a lower rate than most of the 74 other countries or territories exempted from quarantine.
Thailand, which has a rate of just 0.02 cases per 100,000 population in the past seven days, has been approved by the Foreign Office as a “safe” destination to which to travel but visitors to it still have to self-isolate on their return to the UK.
By contrast, visitors to France, which has a rate of five per 100,000, and Vietnam, which has a similar Covid-19 profile to Thailand, are exempt from quarantine on their return to the UK.
“I think Government departments are confused at the moment as to the mix of countries. That doesn’t help the consumer make decisions. There needs to be more clarity,” said Paul Charles, chief executive of PC Consultancy and a spokesman for the Quash Quarantine campaign.
The Department for Transport (DfT) says it has “no plans” to publish the full criteria, while it has abandoned its proposed “traffic light” system which would have categorised countries by risk as red, amber or green.
It says it is based on the proportion of the population currently infectious in a country, virus incidence rates, trends in incidence and deaths, transmission status, international epidemic intelligence, a country’s testing capacity and whether its data can be trusted.
Of the countries or territories exempted from quarantine, Turks and Caicos has the highest rate of 67 per 100,000, ahead of 135 countries that were not exempted, followed by Luxembourg, ahead of 115 non-exempted countries, Serbia, the Czech republic, Turkey, Croatia, Cayman Islands and France.