There are growing concerns that the Balearic Islands may be added to the orange-plus list, as Mallorca and Ibiza reintroduced strict public health measures this week amid a further rise in Covid cases.
Island authorities crack down on social gatherings, banning all events involving mixing between households.
Restaurants, bars and cafes must close at 1 a.m., and the number of diners per table will drop from six to four indoors and from 12 to eight outdoors. The beaches will be closed at 10 p.m. every evening.
The tough new rules will be in place for at least two weeks after the Spanish islands see their 14-day infection rate rise to 740 per 100,000. In Ibiza, the rate reaches 998 per 100,000.
While beta variant rates, seen as a key metric in the UK government’s decision making on traffic light categories, now account for 9% of infections across Spain as a whole.
The Balearics, along with mainland Spain and the Canary Islands, are currently on the Amber List.
From Monday July 19, UK residents returning from Orange List destinations can avoid self-isolation if they have received their second dose of the Covid vaccine at least 14 days before arrival.
However, on Friday evening, the government banned non-quarantine travel from France – another Orange List country – over concerns over the growing number of cases of the beta variant, first discovered in South Africa.
The ad hoc new category created by the move was quickly dubbed ‘amber plus’ and there are now fears that the Balearics will soon follow suit, plunging the summer vacation plans of thousands into chaos.
Why could the Balearics join the amber-plus list?
The 14-day case rate per 100,000 inhabitants is 740 across the archipelago. Broken down by island, the rate is 635 in Mallorca, 932 in Menorca, 998 in Ibiza and 462 in Formentera.
France, which is already on the Orange Plus list, has a case rate of just 63 per 100,000 inhabitants.
Beta variant cases in France, which were added to the Amber Plus list in part due to fears of ‘reseeding’ the strain in the UK, currently only account for 5% of cases.
While in Spain as a whole, the beta rate is currently almost double, accounting for almost 9 percent of the variants.
What other destinations could join the amber-plus list?
Thanks to a high incidence rate of the beta variant nationwide, mainland Spain and the Canary Islands could also risk being on the Amber Plus list.
However, infection rates per 100,000 population nationwide, with a 14-day national rate of only 377 per 100,000 population.
Greece has also been touted as a possible candidate for downgrade to the Plus Amber List. However, this is probably unlikely at this time, as the 14-day rates per 100,000 only stand at 167. Although there have been no recent reports of the beta variant in the Hellenic nation .
Last week, Paul Charles, a key travel spokesperson, warned that Spain and Greece could risk moving to the amber-plus category.
He said: “France is one of the big three countries that we visit every year and I think the concern is that the government will look at Spain and Greece and potentially add them to the amber plus category.
“When you look at the latest tables, the Balearics have very high rates, why doesn’t the government care about the Balearics as much as it does France? I think we may see more changes as countries show higher infection rates.
“This will put another nail in the coffin of summer travel. It is a terrible political decision.
While data analyst Tim White tweeted that Luxembourg “has a very high incidence of the Brazilian variant (Gamma)” and its neighbors could be at risk of having similar measures imposed.
He wrote: “Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany must also be at risk, low incidence of variants in previous data.”
Mr White told The Independent: “I have not seen any evidence that Spain or Greece are affected by new or dangerous variants. But the sometimes haphazard way in which this government has acted with regard to travel does not inspire me with confidence.
How many categories of traffic lights are there now?
There are now five categories, two more than when Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps first announced the system in May 2021. Here are the current rules:
- Green: arrivals must pass a pre-departure test three days before returning to the UK as well as a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test no later than the second day of their return. Quarantine does not apply (unless the Covid test comes back positive) and there is no requirement for further testing.
- Green Watch List: the same rules as the green list. However, the countries on this list “are at risk of going from green to orange”, potentially in the very short term.
- Amber: all travelers must pass a pre-departure test three days before return and a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test no later than the second day of their return. Unvaccinated travelers should also self-isolate for 10 days and have a second PCR test on day 8. An optional five-day additional test may be performed, with a negative result allowing unvaccinated travelers to “test” out of quarantine. The Day 8 PCR test should always be performed regardless of the result of the optional Day 5 PCR test.
- Amber plus (currently only in France): all travelers must pass a pre-departure test three days before return and a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test no later than the second day of their return and must self-isolate at home for 10 days. An optional additional PCR test can be performed on the fifth day, with a negative result allowing unvaccinated travelers to “test” out of quarantine. The Day 8 PCR test should always be performed regardless of the result of the optional Day 5 PCR test.
- Red: arrivals from Red List countries must complete a 10 day stay in a managed quarantine hotel at a cost of £ 1,750 per person, pre-departure testing and mandatory PCR testing no later than day 2 and on or after the eighth day.