South Shields' Westoe Travel hits out at Boris Johnson over holiday industry 'shut down'

A family-run South Shields travel agents has hit out at the Government for its handling of overseas travel restrictions and the lack of support for the industry after the latest set of announcements.

Westoe Travel owners Graeme and Joan Brett
Westoe Travel owners Graeme and Joan Brett

Travel agents across the UK have been reacting to the ‘huge blow’ as Portugal is set to be added to the amber travel list, putting summer holiday plans for many in disarray.

People arriving in the UK from Portugal after 4am on Tuesday will need to self-isolate at home for 10 days after the Government moved it from the green list to the amber list, with travellers scrambling to get home before the cut-off.

Graeme and Joan Brett, who run popular business Westoe Travel in Westoe Road, South Shields, are among those to voice their concerns.

In a message to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps on Twitter, the couple said: "You have effectively shut down the UK travel industry for the second year in succession.

"Travel is not just about holidays, it’s about 1,000s of jobs. We are asking you to step up, provide dedicated financial support – and #SaveTravel”

Portugal is not the only country that has moved within the traffic light rating system.

Afghanistan, Bahrain, Costa Rica, Sudan, and Trinidad and Tobago have also been placed on the red list, meaning people arriving in the UK from those nations must stay in a quarantine hotel for 11 nights.

Professor Henrique Barros, president of Portugal’s National Health Council, said the country’s overall coronavirus situation is “relatively stable”.

He made the comments after Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said positive cases had doubled in the last three weeks in Portugal.

Prof Barros told Sky News: “We didn’t reach such an increase, except as I said in a specific area around Lisbon.

“The overall picture in the country, we didn’t reach such figures.”

The decision to move Portugal to the amber list means people returning to the UK from there must self-isolate at home for 10 days.

“I think it’s an overreaction,” Prof Barros said.

The health chief explained that the rise in infections are mainly among people aged under 40, and there is a “very low incidence of cases” in the over-50s.

He stressed that hospital admissions at the present time are “very low”, at less than 25 people per million.

Officials in the country “pay a lot of attention” to monitoring the virus, he added.

Mr Jenrick acknowledged that the situation was “frustrating” for travellers, but insisted the Government was “clear” that the classification of green list countries could change.

“Those countries are being reviewed every three weeks, and so there was always a risk with a fast-moving situation with new variants that countries might either go on to that list, or indeed come off,” he told Sky News.

The Cabinet minister said the movement of Portugal to the amber tier was partly due to “growing evidence of a further mutation being called the Nepal variant”.

He revealed “we don’t yet know how much of a problem that is” but insisted it is “important that we take a cautious approach”.

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