Ahead of the next traffic light travel announcements Covid data expert Tim White has been analysing the latest information from genomic sequencing records held by Gisaid, the worldwide database, with a focus on variants of concern.
He then spent time answering your most urgent queries when it comes to plans to travel abroad during an ‘ask me anything’ event, which ranged from questions about holidaying in Thailand to concerns about getting married in Greece.
Here is the rundown of the top 15 questions and answers from Tim’s ‘ask me anything’ he held on Tuesday (14 September):
Hi Tim, hope you are well? Would you be able to advise on the likelihood of the Maldives turning amber in the next review? we are due to fly there on Sunday for our honeymoon but will need to postpone if its travel status doesn’t change.
Honeymoon? Congratulations. You’ll have an amazing time. I am that confident you will be going and Maldives will be removed from red.
It’s my number one tip. If Maldives is not removed then there is something severely wrong with the system and the people making decisions.
With no indoor bars or restaurants in resorts, I rate it as the safest Covid-19 destination on the planet!
Hi, we are due to fly to Egypt on the 25th October. As yet Thomas Cook are not cancelling the holiday. What are the chances of us being able to go?
I am doubtful. Egypt has seemingly low cases, but must be doing very little testing. The death rate indicates much higher infection rate. So it’s difficult to know how bad the situation there really is.
The deciding factor though could be that Egypt is another country not to upload data to GISAID, so they have not been able to prove the country is free of variant strains of Covid19/Coronavirus.
Hi Tim, thanks for your for analysing the data. Do you think there will be more than 50% chance for Turkey to go amber this Thursday. Thanks for advance.
Yes I do. Probably around 60% this week. If not then 80% chance in the 1 October reform.
Hi Tim, how concerned should i be about Grenada? Due to fly next Wednesday
Honestly? Very concerned. No country has ever gone from green to red, but looking at the data Grenada really could be the first. I would be looking at options.
Grenada’s infection rate is higher than Montenegro was when it was red listed 3 weeks ago while the island is another which has not done any genomic testing, or at least not shared it with the international collective.
Hi Tim, chances on USA going red this week? I’m a US citizen resident in the UK and planning to go there on Thursday for a small family wedding – just getting a bit worried.
No chance USA will go red as far as I can see. I would be shocked to say the least. Cases are high and there are some low level variants like the new “Mu” variant. But it’s very unlikely to be made red, it would cause outrage and unnecessary political problems. But lucky you being admitted into the US. Mere mortals like us Brits can’t get stateside – give Joe a nudge when you’re there can you please?!
Hi Tim. If we go to an Amber schengen country after a red country before coming to the UK to avoid the hotel quarantine, is it allowed to move from Greece to Italy for example without staying in Greece 10 days after Turkey? Or would Italy question where I have been last 10 days while coming from Greece? Hope it makes sense as going a little crazy here with all the rules. Thank you in advance.
First check for example Greece and Italy to see if they admit you without quarantine from where you are coming from.
If they are both happy to admit you without quarantine, then it’s fine to move around between the two.
The day you land in the first country after leaving the red country is day ZERO remember, so you need to stay in Greece/Italy or other non red places for 10 whole days after that before touching down in UK again
Hi Tim. Thanks so much for the analysis you do – it’s really appreciated. My partner is a Brazilian national living in the UK. She’s not been able to see her family for more than 2 years now. Appreciate it’s not easy but what would you suggest when she asks when she could travel there? We don’t have the savings or income to afford hotel quarantine.
I really fear nothing will change for Brazil (or Chile for that matter) in the immediate future.
Most of South America’s at the lowest ever infection levels since the virus first arrived on the continent. However as you’ll know Brazil was over run by the Gamma variant. Brazil does upload hundreds of samples to GISAID thankfully, but 41% are still Gamma. Many scientists think it’s not really a danger, and that vaccines cope with it. But others are fearful it can reinfect more easily, as we saw in Manaus. If Delta takes complete control it will help extinguish the variants but that could take a while.
I know it’s extra expense, and I don’t know where your wife’s family lives in BRZ but is it possible if it stays red, but a neighbouring country gets taken off red, they could rendezvous there – Argentina is looking good.
My partner and I are meant to be going to Mauritius on Friday for a week long holiday. I’ve seen that cases are increasing, but I know the vaccination rate is pretty good, do you think we will be safe from the dreaded red list?
Yes I have some fears about Mauritius as well.
It also has not uploaded any data to GISAID (about possible variants) for over a month.
It really comes down to:
a) if Mauritius can upload data to prove there is no Beta or anything else, and
b) how hard line the UK govt will be on countries with small populations not uploading these data.
I think you will be ok though, because you’re only there for a week. Hopefully it won’t go red this week (more likely in the October reform), and by then you will be back home – phew!
Hi Tim! I know it’s on a knife-edge, but if you had to swing either way on the chances of Jamaica surviving this week, what would your bet be?
On the basis Mr Shapps did not change it 3 weeks ago and he hates to admit he was wrong (remember the France amber+ fiasco?), then you may get lucky. Let’s say 51-49% in favour of no change!
What are the chances of costa rica coming off the red list by December- they seem to be doing well with the vaccination drive but aren’t a popular holiday destination for brits yet which is why i feel like they’re being left behind but keeping them on the red list will be detrimental for tourism and for British airways who opened this new route recently.
I had a close look at Costa Rica when I researching for the article by Simon Calder, published here on the Independent yesterday. It’s not good news I’m afraid as there is evidence of the Gamma variant circulating which will likely make UK reticent to remove it from red just yet. Cases are still relatively high too. One place I’ve not visited and would love the chance to go, but think we will be kept waiting a while yet Helen, Sorry!
Do you think the government will introduce quarantine at home rather than in a hotel if you arrive back from a red country/ test positive?
I know it was considered, but it’s gone quiet on that front. That would be my recommendation for the double jabbed. However as there have been no leaks about it, I doubt it will happen, but let’s see what is said in the reform of the system on 1 October.
HI Tim. I am travelling to Ghana for work on 27th Sept. My husband is planning on joining me on the 15th Oct for a two week holiday. We haven’t booked his flights yet. Do you think Ghana will go on the red list?
Ghana is really tricky to be honest Becca. A lot of people returning from Ghana in the last couple of months have tested positive for Covid19, and that’s often the reason for red listing. But it survived 3 weeks ago and may survive again. However, Ghana has not uploaded any genomic sequencing in the last 30 days, so I have to say there is a risk of being placed on red. It’s far from certain though – so keep everything crossed.
Quick question on Italy. We need a 48 hour covid test for entry. Can this be the antigen test- will this be accepted? Thank you
Yes, if you are fully vaccinated. This is what’s written on the Gov.uk web page about requirements for Italy. always worth keep checking that page in case there are any late changes.
“..travellers from the UK can enter Italy without being required to quarantine if you have proof of having completed a full vaccination cycle or having recovered from COVID, plus a negative PCR or antigen test, taken within 48 hours before entering Italy.”
We are hoping to travel to Phuket in December. Is Thailand likely to come off the red list soon, and if so, when? Thank you
Thailand was a strange choice to put on red last time because cases were already going down quite a lot and infection rates were not particularly high. It’s emerged Thailand became the first victim of the concentration on purely variants. I’ve been shown data proving Thailand has done a lot of genomic sequencing in the past and that Beta was dying out as Delta took over. However in the last month they’ve only uploaded 5 samples, one of which proved Beta positive. Just one case, but 20%. If they can share a lot more data, showing Beta is no longer active, then you will be ok. Until they do that, December trip is in jeopardy I’m afraid.
Due to fly to the Balearics on Friday 17th. Would you say Spain has no chance of going red?
I would indeed say that Rosie. Pack calmly in the knowledge you won’t have your lovely trip disrupted. Have a great break!