The UK Government has introduced a risk-based traffic light system for travel from 17 May, when it will no longer be illegal to take holidays abroad.
Instead, countries will be placed on green, amber and red lists according to their Covid risk level. British holidaymakers will still have to quarantine when returning from amber and red countries.
Only 12 destinations have been placed on the green list from 17 May, including Portugal, Gibraltar, Iceland and Israel and, at the moment, none of these is open to UK holidaymakers – although they are expected to allow some tourists later this month.
The most popular destinations, including Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Croatia and Italy, are on the amber list, meaning holidaymakers must self-isolate at home when they return.
The UK Government says the lists will be reviewed every three weeks and countries added or removed from the green list.
When will the first review take place?
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said last week that he will review the travel lists three weeks ‘from the restart of travel’, so the earliest countries are likely to be added to the green list is 7 June.
However, this date isn’t set in stone and countries could be added to – or removed from – the green list earlier.
The Government intends to place countries that are likely to move on a watchlist to give travellers at least a week’s notice of any change, but it has warned that countries might be moved from green to amber or amber to red with little or no notice.
Why are there so few green countries?
Mr Shapps says the UK is ‘moving cautiously’ and plans to reopen travel ‘gradually’.
“It would betray what everyone has gone through for the last year, if we were to throw it all away and just say: ‘Well, we’ll add some holiday destinations on’. We cannot do that,” he said in a Downing Street briefing last week.
“The reason there aren’t more places on the list is that there aren’t more places that are in the fortunate position that the UK has got itself in. The rest of the world needs more time to catch up before we will be able to open up those locations,” he added.
How does a country make it onto the green list?
Last year, the Government opened up travel corridors to countries that appeared to have a relatively low number of Covid cases, which is why we were allowed to go to places such as Turkey and Croatia last summer.
However, this year it is taking a more sophisticated, multi-pronged approach to accessing a country’s Covid risk.
In addition to looking at the number of Covid cases per 100,000 of population, it is taking into consideration a country’s ability to test, the quality of their data, how good their genome sequencing is and whether it has any ‘variants of concern’.
Grant Shapps said the full criteria will be published this year, but, as yet, it hasn’t made it public.
When are Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Italy, France and Croatia likely to turn green?
The short answer is no one knows, it will depend on the above-mentioned data, says the Government.
But there are fears in the travel industry that few if any of these countries are likely to be added at the next review in June.
However, there is still a possibility they will be added to the green list before the start of the school holidays in July, especially if the countries’ Covid vaccination roll-out goes well.