Travelers from the UK have been given the go ahead to visit Portugal, Gibraltar and Israel from May 17 when months of restrictions making it illegal to travel abroad for a vacation will come to an end.
The UK government has finally revealed the 12 countries and territories that will be designated “green” once the current ban on non-essential travel is lifted after weeks of speculation.
The much-anticipated announcement looks set to lead to surge in vacation bookings for the countries that have gained a coveted spot, although there was disappointment that the list didn’t contain certain prime travel destinations.
A traffic light system is now in place, with countries split into three different categories based on their Covid-19 infection and vaccinations rates, along with the prevalence of any variants of concern.
The full green list is: Portugal including Azores and Madeira, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; St. Helena, Ascension & Tristan da Cunha, and Israel.
France, Greece, Spain and Italy have been put on the “amber” list, which means travelers will be required to quarantine for 10 days on returning to the UK.
Meanwhile Turkey, the Maldives and Nepal, are being added to the UK’s “red” list of countries from which most travel is banned. That list already includes South Africa, India, Namibia and the United Arab Emirates.
“I regret the favorite summer destinations like France and Spain and Greece, are not yet included,” UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said during a press conference on Friday.
Traffic light system
“But every three weeks from reopening, we’ll be reviewing the countries, to see how and where we can expand the green list. So this is just a first step.”
Travelers planning to visit a “green” destination will have to take a pre-departure test, as well as a PCR test on or before day two of their arrival back in the UK. However, they will not be required to quarantine.
Those traveling from a country designated “amber” will have to quarantine for 10 days, take a pre-departure test and also get a PCR test on day two and eight of their isolation.
“Amber” travelers will qualify for the test to release scheme, which allows holidaymakers to take a PCR test after five days’ quarantine. If they receive a negative result, they are then permitted to go out into the community.
Those planning to holiday in a destination on the “red” list face the toughest restrictions, and will have to check in at one of the UK’s quarantine hotels, at a cost of £1,750 (around $2,445) per adult, on their return as well as follow the same testing rules for those arriving from “amber” destinations.
According to Shapps, travelers can use their NHS app to demonstrate their Covid vaccination and testing status, while a paper alternative will be available to those who do not have a smartphone.
The news will come as a relief to British holidaymakers, who’ve been banned from traveling outside England “without a reasonable excuse” since tougher lockdown restrictions were put in place in January.
In recent weeks, those caught flouting the rules risked fines ranging from £5,000 ($7,000) to £10,000 ($14,000).
After the announcement, the World Travel & Tourism Council expressed disappointment that the US was not included on the “green” list, and accused the UK government of being “too cautious.”
“We welcome this first initial step by the UK government to begin opening the door to international travel with the announcement of today’s ‘traffic light’ system,” reads an official statement from President and CEO Gloria Guevera.
“However, airlines and the wider Travel & Tourism sector will be hugely disappointed that the US, which has a similar vaccination success rate has not been included on the ‘green list’ as it would have enabled the resumption of transatlantic travel, which would have thrown a vital lifeline to the sector in two of the biggest Travel & Tourism markets in the world.
“Holidaymakers and business travelers will be disappointed by today’s news, with so few countries on the ‘green list’, while Europe steals a march on the UK by continuing to open up and welcome visitors back.”