Experts demand No10 ‘urgently’ releases data behind new amber-plus list restrictions for France as ministers opt against slapping Spain with same travel quarantine rules
- Travellers from France slapped with restrictions due to South African variant
- But official data shows Spain and Greece have more cases of this mutant strain
- Royal Statistical Society has called on the Government to publish data used
No10 must ‘urgently’ release the data that persuaded ministers to hit France with new ‘amber-plus’ list restrictions, statisticians have demanded.
Experts want the Government to justify the move, which has sparked holiday misery for thousands.
Currently, anyone who arrives from France must self-isolate for ten days even if they are double-jabbed. But people who’ve had both vaccine doses and are arriving from other ‘amber’ list areas do not have to quarantine.
The Government says its brought in the new restrictions because of the ‘persistent presence’ of the South African ‘Beta’ variant, which scientists say can dodge immunity from vaccines.
But data shows Spain and Greece have more cases of the mutant variant, prompting scientists to question the ‘bizarre’ decision. Infection rates are also higher in both the holiday hotspots.
It prompted fears Spain, Britain’s most popular holiday destination, may also be subject to the strict rules.
But ministers last night insisted there were no plans to add the country to the same amber-plus list, despite the Beta variant being more prevalent there.
The Royal Statistical Society (RSS) has now called on the Government to publish the exact numbers behind its decision on France.
Ministers say they moved France to the ‘amber-plus’ list because of ‘persistent cases’ of the South African ‘Beta’ variant that scientists fear can dodge immunity from vaccines. But it is more common in Spain and Greece which were not added to the new category. The graph above shows the number of positive cases in each country per 100,000 residents
Travellers from France are now required to quarantine even if they are double-jabbed. Pictured: People enjoying the beach in Aquitaine, France
83% THINK JABBED BRITONS SHOULD BE ABLE TO GO ABROAD WITHOUT COSTLY TESTS
More than four in five Britons – 83 per cent – think fully-jabbed holidaymakers should be allowed to go abroad without facing costly tests on return, a poll has found.
More than half (58 per cent) said it has taken too long for a ‘vaccine dividend’ to be delivered for the double-jabbed, according to a survey of 2,000 adults commissioned by easyJet.
Some 61 per cent said they were more likely to travel once they were fully vaccinated. The average cost of a government-approved PCR test is around £100.
It said: ‘Major policy decisions continue to be announced, supposedly informed by data, but with no evidence published — most recently the decision to place France on the amber-plus list, affecting the plans of millions.
‘We expect that evidence to be published as a matter of urgency.’
It added: ‘A lack of transparency risks undermining public confidence and weakens people’s ability to make their own decisions about how they respond to threats posed by the pandemic.’
Professor Sylvia Richardson, the president of the RSS and a statistician at Cambridge University, told MailOnline it appeared the Government was relying on outdated figures to justify extra restrictions for travellers arriving from France.
She said ministers were spooked last week when France published its variant figures including cases identified in Reunion Island — 5,500 miles from the mainland and where the mutant strain makes up 90 per cent of infections.
But separate data published on Monday evening separated the island from the mainland, which showed France actually had a much lower rate of cases of the South African variant.
She said: ‘I think the Government decision [to place France on the amber-plus list] is not justified in the view of the new data which emerged on Monday.
‘[These new figures] would justify taking France away from the amber-plus list.’
Imperial College London clinical virologist Professor Richard Tedder also slammed the extra restrictions on travellers from France, saying it appeared to be ‘hypocrisy’.
‘I think it is a little bit of hypocrisy actually,’ he told MailOnline.
‘I wish they were taking as much of a proactive approach to our homegrown virus as they are to the French viruses.’
Covid cases in Britain have spiralled in recent days, with experts warning they could hit 100,000 a day by August.
Professor Tedder said the high case number risked new ‘generations of variants’ that will be able to dodge vaccine-triggered immunity.
Ministers say they moved France to the newly-created amber-plus list because of persistent cases of the South African variant.
Data compiled by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) suggested the mutant strain was behind 3.4 per cent of infections surveyed in the week to July 4, the latest available.
For comparison, in Spain it was behind as many as 20.2 per cent in the same period, and in Greece it was behind 13.4 per cent.
A new travel regime kicked in at 4am on Monday allowing double-jabbed travellers arriving from more than 140 amber countries to no longer quarantine on arrival, effectively turning these destinations green for the fully vaccinated.
Tourism industry leaders have also called on the Government to publish the data used to justify their decision, branding the move a ‘total disaster’.
John Lundgren, easyJet’s chief executive, slammed the Government for ‘changing the goalposts’ around foreign travel.
‘The message [to ministers] would be, provide clear and transparent data that you are using when you are making decisions.
‘It is not enough to just say “we’re looking at cases of infections, we’re looking at variants of concern, we’re looking at vaccination levels”. That’s all obvious. But you also need to tell us what are the numbers.’
The chairman of the Institute of Travel and Tourism Dr Steven Freudmann told the i the move was hitting confidence in the sector.
‘If they provide us with scientific evidence they might convince us, but they have not, so makes us more suspicious of a hidden agenda or political motives for treating France differently when evidence does not stack up.’
Dr Freudmann added it was a ‘constant frustration’ that in many cases, tourism bodies were not provided with ‘the scientific views or the facts’.