• Quote: ‘Unlikely any more countries will be added to the UK travel ‘green’ list – thwarting any hopes of Spain being removed from amber’

By Andrew Atkinson

Boris Johnson has dropped bombshell news that it was unlikely that any more countries will be added to the UK travel ‘green’ list – thwarting hopes of Spain being upgraded from amber.

PM Johnson said the race between the COVID-19 vaccine programme and the virus was set to get tighter, and that the June 21 total reopening may now be thrown off track.

Hopes of a June 21 scheduled COVID-19 plan hang in the balance due to the Indian variant that could derail his roadmap.

The PM admitted his coronavirus easing plans could be derailed in England – for a longer lockdown.

People will be able to meet in homes and pubs from Monday May 17, when the next state of lockdown easing goes ahead, as scheduled.

The scheduled end of all legal restrictions on June 21 could be jeopardized if the super-infectious Indian strain continues to spread, he warned.

“I do not believe that we need, on the present evidence, to delay our roadmap and we will proceed with our plan to move to step three in England from Monday.

“But I have to level with you that this new variant could pose a serious disruption to our progress and could make it more difficult to move to step four in June,” said Johnson.

Spikes in COVID-19 cases of the highly-infectious Indian variant are causing serious concerns for ministers.

Asked if the 21 June unlocking would go ahead as planned, he said: “I think the truth is that we, at this stage, simply can’t say for certain, as things stand.

“We rule nothing out. There is the risk of disruption and delay. We take nothing off the table of means of controlling this virus and this variant, and we will do whatever it takes to keep you all safe.”

The Indian variant is 50 per cent more transmissible, new SAGE documents revealed. Johnson announced the gap between first and second jabs would be cut to eight weeks.

The coming weeks are critical for finding out more about the faster spreading of the India variant – with four people having died from the Indian variant in the UK.

Experts warned that the Indian variant could be up to 60 per cent more transmissible than the Kent strain.

Johnson has moved quickly to get more vaccine second doses undertaken, so the population are more protected against Covid.

Currently there’s a 12-week gap between first and second jabs, amid studies showing it generates more antibodies overall. It will now be cut to eight.

“We will accelerate remaining second doses, especially for the clinically vulnerable, right across the country, to just eight weeks after the first date.

“And if you are in this group the NHS, will be in touch with you. We will also prioritise first jabs for anyone eligible who has not yet come forward.”

Indian variant cases in the UK have more than doubled over a seven days period as at May 15 from 520 to 1,313, causing alarm in Whitehall.

More than 800,000 tests have been sent to the worst affected areas which include Bolton, Formby, and parts of London.

Extra surge testing will be sent to Bolton to try and find as many cases of the new variant as possible.

“There is now a greater risk from this new period and so I urge you to be extra cautious, our best chance of suppressing this variant is to clamp down on it, wherever it is and we’ll be throwing everything we can, at this task.”

Spain were placed on the UK amber travel list last week, that lead to concerns about holiday travellers being refused entry to enjoy summer holidays this year.

Johnson warned it was unlikely that more countries would be added to the green: “We remain alive to any change in the data and we’ll react accordingly.

“I think the same spirit of caution should apply to people thinking of travelling abroad.

“There is a very limited list as you know and we will make sure that people travelling abroad will be subject to all the tests and restraints that people would expect to prevent the virus from being reimported.

“It’s such a tiny list of countries – and I don’t expect we’ll be adding to it very rapidly.”

Prior to Johnson announcing the bombshell news on Saturday the Spanish industry, commerce and tourism minister, Reyes Maroto, tried to ease concerns, insisting that Britons should be able to visit Spain from May 20 without a PCR test, dependent upon the UK government removing the country, or regions with a better epidemiological situation, from the amber list.

In 2019, before the COVID-19 world pandemic, Spain received more than 18 million tourists from the UK.

The dependency on UK travellers possibly being denied travel to Spain, due to the Indian variant, is now a bigger cause of concern in the wake of the UK government leaving Spain off its green list.