The ban on foreign holidays will be lifted on May 17 and replaced with a ‘traffic light system’ to kickstart overseas trips in 2021, Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, confirmed on May 7.
“Today marks the first step in our cautious return to international travel, with measures designed above all else to protect public health and ensure we don’t throw away the hard-fought gains we’ve all strived to earn this year,” said Mr Shapps.
“This is a new way of doing things, and people should expect travel to be different this summer – with longer checks at the borders, as part of tough measures to prevent new strains of the virus entering the country and putting our fantastic vaccine rollout at risk.”
From May 17 it will no longer be illegal to travel abroad for a holiday and each country will be categorised as “red”, “amber” or “green” depending on the proportion of the population that has been vaccinated, infection rates, the prevalence of variants of concern and the capacity to sequence genomes.
The “green list” has been announced and includes 12 countries and territories, including Portugal (inc. Azores and Madeira); Australia; New Zealand; Singapore; Brunei: Iceland; Faroe Islands; Gibraltar; Falkland Islands; South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; Saint Helena, Ascension & Tristan da Cunha; and Israel.
A review of the system is planned at the end of June, ahead of the main summer holiday season, which is expected to pave the way for vaccinated people to possibly avoid quarantine and take fewer or no tests. By this time, more of Europe could be rated “green”.
People coming from “green list” countries will have to provide a negative Covid test within 72 hours of departure and then pay for a PCR test on or before their second day back in the UK.
Those returning from an “amber” country will have to quarantine at home for 10 days. They will have to take a pre-departure test and two PCR tests when back, on days two and eight.
Britons returning from “red” countries must quarantine for 10 days in government-approved hotels at their own expense, as well as the pre-departure test and the two tests once back.
Following the announcement of the long-awaited list, Telegraph Travel has crunched the numbers in the countries that will be classified as green from May 17 to reveal how they shape up for a summer holiday destination.
Vaccines administered: 5,414,046 (82.93% have received first dose)
Cases per 100,000 over seven days: 4.86
A slightly farther flung Mediterranean escape perhaps, and admittedly it has fewer connections than Italy and Croatia, but Israel cannot be ignored as a top contender for a summer getaway, especially now it’s clinched a spot on the green list. The country is currently leading the charge when it comes to vaccinations. 60% of the adult population has received a first dose, and 56% are fully vaccinated.
What’s more, Israel has joined Greece in setting a precedent for a ‘vaccination bubble’, which Cyprus is also hoping to get in on. All arrivals between the countries can dodge quarantine on arrival with proof of immunity. Israel will only accept vaccinated holidaymakers and requires a test for biological proof that visitors have been jabbed. Travel to the country is expected to be limited to select group tours from May 23 and only opened to independent tourists from July.
Vaccines administered: 62,341 (100% have received first dose)
Cases per 100,000 over seven days: N/A
Gibraltar has the most comprehensive vaccination campaign of anywhere in the world – 100 per cent of the population has received a first dose. UK tourists can visit Gibraltar without taking a Covid-19 test.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock praised Gibraltar’s rollout in the Commons after the Rock’s Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, said the UK had “played a blinder” with its vaccination drive.
Bars and restaurants are open again in Gibraltar and face masks are only required on public transport. What’s more, British Airways has just launched flights from London City to Gibraltar, starting from June 25 – preempting The Rock’s place on the green list. It was also the last ‘quarantine free’ option in 2020.
Spain’s vaccination programme, however, is lagging way behind, along with the rest of Europe. The adult population in Spain is unlikely to be fully vaccinated until September.
Vaccines administered: 121,530 (24% have received first dose)
Cases per 100,000 over seven days: 24.05
As of March 18, all Britons who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 are allowed to travel to Iceland without being subject to PCR testing and quarantine. The exemption also applies to UK travellers who can provide valid proof of prior infection, others must enter quarantine.
“We are excited to safely reopen our borders to fully vaccinated British citizens, as well as those who are no longer susceptible to the virus,” says Sigríður Dögg Guðmundsdóttir, Head of Visit Iceland.
“Tourism is a very valuable industry for Iceland, as it contributes to our economy and culture. With the support of approved vaccines, the targeted measures taken by Icelandic officials, experts, scientists, and the general population to continuously keep the infection rate down, as well as a focused reopening plan designed to keep the Icelandic people and tourists healthy, we are now able to safely extend an exemption to UK travellers.”
Previously, only citizens of the EU/EEA were allowed to enter the country with the following requirements: a negative PCR test prior to their departure to Iceland, a negative PCR test at the border followed by a five-day quarantine, and a third negative test after quarantine. Iceland has also maintained a policy of exempting those who have presented proof of vaccination or prior infections issued in the EU/EEA.
Vaccines administered: 2,644,076 (29.68%)
Cases per 100,000 over 7 days: 23.95
The island of Madeira is already welcoming travellers who can provide evidence of vaccination. What’s more, case numbers are low in Portugal – 23.95 over a seven day average. The UK, by comparison, is at a similar rate of 22.85 per 100,000, but, the vaccination drive in Portugal does lag behind (only 22% have received a first dose) our own. However, against all odds Portugal has been added to the green list today.
Following today’s announcement, it’s expected that Portugal will open its borders to British holidaymakers after May 17, with proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test, but currently Britons cannot visit.
Vaccines administered: 217,603 (5.5%)
Cases per 100,000 over 7 days: 0.44
Likewise New Zealand has been shuttered for foreign visitors for much of the past year and is unlikely to reopen to British travellers for some time. Progress had presented itself recently when a ‘travel bubble’ with neighbouring Australia was opened. However this week New Zealand stopped quarantine-free travel to Australia’s state of New South Wales following the discovery of two cases announced in Sydney.
Health department secretary Brendan Murphy said in January: “Even if we have a lot of the population vaccinated, we don’t know whether that will prevent transmission of the virus. And it’s likely that quarantine will continue for some time.”
Vaccines administered: 159,294 (0.78%)
Cases per 100,000 over 7 days: 0.37
Despite being deemed as ‘safe’ for travel and granted a place on the green list by the UK Government, Australia will remain closed to the majority of international arrivals until at least the start of 2022, the Government has said.
“We won’t be seeing borders flung open at the start of next year with great ease,” Finance Minister Simon Birmingham told The Australian on Thursday, citing “uncertainties that exist not just in the speed of the vaccine rollout but also the extent of its effectiveness to different variants of Covid, the duration of its longevity and effectiveness.”
When international travel does restart in Australia, it is likely to begin with ‘bubbles’ shared with nations including Singapore, Japan, and Vietnam, Trade Minister Dan Tehan stated last week, a major blow to those who have been separated from their overseas loved ones for more than a year and counting. If/when Britons are welcome proof of a Covid-19 vaccination could be required.
Vaccines administered: 1,364,124 (27.28%)
Cases per 100,000 over 7 days:: 2.84
Short term visitors from anywhere in the world are not able to enter Singapore without prior permission. On May 4, it announced it would be tightening border measures form May 7, although is set to launch an air bubble with Hong Kong on May 26.
The remaining green list destinations
The FCDO advice for the Faroe Islands reads: “All UK resident travellers to the Faroe Islands must have a special worthy purpose to enter in line with the Danish government’s stricter requirements.” All travellers aged 12 and over will be tested for Covid-19 on arrival and will be required to pay for the test, with a follow-up test on day six is recommended. Travellers should self-isolate until they have received the result of the follow-up test.
Current visitor restrictions mean tourists are not permitted to visit the Falkland Islands, including via cruise vessels. Any arrivals are expected to self-isolate for a period of 14 days.
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands has restricted access and visitor permits are required.
Saint Helena, Ascension & Tristan da Cunha
All arrivals must have had a negative Covid-19 test result within 72 hours prior to departing for St Helena. Arrivals are subject to compulsory quarantine for 14 days. There are no other entry restrictions in force and foreign nationals are permitted to enter St Helena provided they meet the immigration rules.
See the full list amber list, which includes most of Europe, the Caribbean and the USA.
The 43 hotel quarantine red list countries are:
- South Africa
- DR Congo
- United Arab Emirates (including Dubai)
- Cape Verde
- French Guiana
- The Philippines