Tuk Tuk in Ica, Peru

A TRAVEL industry boss has accused the Government of “picking on” the seven Latin American countries that remain on the red list because they are not “politically important” to the UK.

Clive Jacobs, whose company owns trade magazine Travel Weekly, criticised ministers for using the mantra “following the science” yet making “purely political” decisions when it comes to international travel.

He said there was no logical reason to keep the seven nations on the red list.

Transport Minister Grant Shapps removed 47 countries from the red list on 7 October to boost long-haul travel. Most nations in the world are on the green list.

Seven were left: Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru and Venezuela. All are in Central and South America. Anyone arriving from these countries still has to quarantine for 10 days in an expensive hotel.

The Government has said the traffic-light criteria is assessed on infection rates and variants of concern.

According to the latest Reuters data, these are not high risk destinations.

Colombia and Peru’s weekly rate of reported coronavirus cases stands at 18 per 100,000 people. Haiti has two per 100,000, Panama 30 per 100,000, and Venezuela 32 per 100,000. This compares with a rate of 21 per 100,000 in Mexico and 40 per 100,000 in Brazil – both made the green list.

In the UK infections have soared to 479 per 100,000 people.

Speaking at virtual travel event, Lata Expo 2021, Mr Jacobs added: “The British government has been hell bent on trying to get people to spend money at home and used the virus as an excuse to block travel and create as many obstacles as possible.

“We can see with these remaining countries that are left on the red list, it is purely political. I believe they are on the red list because they need to keep the red list open and they have picked on countries that are not politically important to the United Kingdom.

“They have never followed the science which has been disappointing throughout the pandemic. There is no logic whatsoever. The government kept saying ‘we are following the science’ but everything proved the opposite. They have acted politically and they continue to do so.”

A musician who lives in Peru was hoping to visit family in the UK over Christmas. Hans Menacho has had two Pfizer jabs in the United States but the UK will only allow him entry if he can show a US address. This won’t change if Peru is later moved on to the green list.

He said: “My vaccine shots are worth nothing. The UK is basically saying I am not vaccinated, when I can prove that I am. There is nothing I can do.”

Sarah Bradley, from tour operator Journey Latin America, said the latest travel announcement was a “bittersweet moment”.

“I was partly ecstatic because we finally got the opportunity to get people travelling to some of our destinations but at the same time very disappointed to see other destinations still on it [the red list],” she said.

“You can single out places like Ecuador, which have worked hard to protect tourism, equally Peru and Colombia and Panama, in particular – it was a bittersweet moment.

“It could have been worse but I’m not sure what the logic is.”

The traffic light system is updated every three weeks: the next review is expected on Wednesday 27 or Thursday 28 October.

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