France should be on UK green list, says former BA director

Former BA commercial director claims reason for France and some other countries ‘languishing’ on amber list is probably political but that he cannot find logical reasons for this

5 July 2021
By Liv Rowland

France meets thresholds to turn green in the UK’s traffic light system, according to a top travel industry consultant.

The UK has not been explicit about the precise criteria it uses to classify countries as ‘green’ – meaning minimal Covid travel restrictions – however Robert Boyle, former BA commercial director and former strategy director for International Airlines Group, has studied conditions in those already on the list to find common points.

Mr Boyle of GridPoint Consulting, says in a study that 22 ‘amber list’ countries, including France, meet all the criteria.

He states: “Explaining why some countries are on the green list isn’t too hard. They have low case rates, low test positivities and decent levels of testing…

“But the big thing that I cannot explain is why a whole raft of other countries are on the amber list, rather than the green one. There seems to be nothing in the data the government says it is using that explains why they are languishing on the amber list at this point.

“I’m sure the answer is politics somehow, but there doesn’t even seem to be any obvious political logic for why two apparently similar countries get classified differently.”

Travellers from ‘green’ countries avoid an obligatory 10-day quarantine and only have to take one Covid test after arrival in the UK as opposed to two.

According to Mr Boyle a combination low Covid case rates and a low rate of positivity of tests, is a strong indicator of inclusion on the list.

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France’s latest figures today for these are 2,549 and 0.8%. Over the previous seven days as of July 1 the average daily case rate per day was 1,997 and France’s incidence rate (weekly case rate per 100,000 population) was 21.4.

This is comparable, for example, to the Balearic Islands (shown in the study with a weekly rate of 20 and 1.1% positivity) or British Virgin Islands (weekly rate of 20, no data for positivity). These areas were both made green at the last traffic light review on Thursday June 24 (with the change being made at 4:00 on Wednesday June 30). It is therefore possible a weekly rate of around 20 is now being used, Mr Boyle said.

The Connexion notes that France is currently, therefore, borderline on case rates, as its weekly per 100,000 rate has crept up over the last week, having been as low as 18.7 on June 26.

Even so, Portugal and Iceland were at 33 and 27 in their weekly rate, respectively, when they were added to the green list, the study notes. Portugal was later removed.

As for test positivity, the highest rate of recent additions was the Dominican Republic which at 1.5% is almost twice France’s current rate. Mr Boyle speculates that this is the UK’s cut-off point for that criterion.

He estimates that other criteria being used include a full-vaccinated percentage of at least 15% (France is at 34%, reports covidtracker.fr).

He added that no ‘variants of concern’ had been found in recent weeks in travellers coming to the UK from France or several other European countries that he believes should now be in the running to turn green.

Commenting on the study, Airport Operators Association chief executive Karen Dee said: “In Parliament, the transport secretary repeatedly urged people to look at the data to understand why some countries get added to the green list and others not. Yet when people do look at that data, it raises more questions than it answers.

“It is time that the government explains transparently, and in full, how they decide on the green list and expand the green list to include countries that clearly meet the thresholds they appear to have applied.”

The next traffic light review is set for Thursday July 15, with any changes likely to apply in the week afterwards.

Read more

UK plans to drop amber country quarantine: Can Britons abroad benefit? 
UK traffic light review: Why France is not expected to turn green 

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