Portugal and Israel are among a dozen countries which have been placed on England’s first ever “green list”, allowing people to go abroad from May 17th and return home without the need to quarantine.
Announcing the first easing of tight restrictions on foreign travel in months, the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said people would soon be able to book foreign holidays and make trips to see friends or relatives living overseas. He also announced plans to make digital vaccine passports available.
But restrictions are being tightened on three countries, Nepal, the Maldives and Turkey, where the Champions League final is scheduled to be played between Manchester City and Chelsea. Mr Shapps said the government had offered to host the match in the UK.
Despite the resumption of international travel having been earmarked for May 17th in prime minister Boris Johnson’s roadmap, questions lingered about whether new Covid-19 variants and case rises across the world could lead to the date being pushed back.
Mr Shapps confirmed leisure trips abroad would be able to recommence in just over a week, and announced details of the new traffic-light system that will grade countries depending on their case and vaccine rates.
Travellers arriving from countries on the green list will not have to quarantine upon their return to England, while those on the amber list must self-isolate at home for 10 days, but can be released at day five if they get a negative Covid test result. The red list country rules remain that only UK residents and nationals are allowed in – and all must quarantine in a hotel for 10 days.
The 10 countries on the green list are: Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, the Falkland Islands, Israel and Portugal – including the Azores and Madeira. Also on the the green list are the territories of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, and Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.
While the green list will make travel easier from certain countries, getting into them may prove incredibly difficult. Several allow only their own nationals into the country. A government source said: “It’s so hard to get into some of these places, it’s hardly like we’re encouraging people to go to them.”
Mr Shapps admitted people were likely to be disappointed that countries such as France, Italy and Spain were not on the green list. “As summer progresses, we hope more traditional tourist destinations will be unlocked, but we have to turn the key slowly,” he said.
Opening the borders too quickly risked a return to “the days of misery, suffering and loss” caused by Covid infection peaks, Mr Shapps said. “For now we must tread carefully, respecting the science that will guide us along the way.
“Our success in combating Covid here... is not yet replicated in many places abroad. We in this country have managed to construct a fortress against Covid but the disease is still prevalent in other parts of the world.”
Travellers were also told to expect longer queues at airports, and that if they wanted to travel to a green-list country, they should make sure they could get a refund if they needed to cancel given changes to the lists.
Mr Shapps said the lists would be reviewed every three weeks, but had previously suggested major transit hubs such as the United Arab Emirates could remain on the red list indefinitely, given the number of passengers from across the world who pass through its busy Dubai and Abu Dhabi airports.
He also said he was very open to Britain hosting the Champions League final at the end of May. “Given that there are two English clubs in that final, we look forward to hearing what they have to say,” he said.
Travellers will also be able to show a Covid passport proving they have been vaccinated to potentially avoid quarantine in the country they travel to from the UK.
Shapps’ announcement affects only people living in England. The administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have yet to update their rules.
Huw Merriman, the Tory chairman of the Commons transport select committee, welcomed the lifting of the travel ban, but said "barriers remain in place for most of our popular destinations" and that travellers heading to England from much of Europe would face increased costs for testing that would deter travel. – Guardian