Update: The green list of countries has been announced by the government. You can read the full list here.
Holidaymakers in England may soon have the option to jet off abroad – but the list of available destinations may be smaller than many had hoped.
Politicians have indicated in recent days they believe the ban on international travel can end in two weeks on the planned date of May 17 in England.
The system will list countries as green, amber or red, with anyone returning from a green list country not required to enter any form of quarantine.
The government will reveal which countries will be on the green list at 5pm on Friday at a press conference, after missing its Saturday deadline.
On Tuesday, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) downgraded its travel advice for several popular holiday destinations, leading to speculation these countries could be on the green list when it is announced.
The FCDO has now stopped advising against non-essential travel to Portugal (excluding the Azores), Spain’s Canary Islands or the Greek islands of Rhodes, Kos, Zante, Corfu and Crete.
Reports suggest the green list will include about a dozen countries, although some newspapers say it could be fewer than 10.
What changes could be made to restrictions on May 17 and June 21? Dan Rivers explains
Both The Times and The Guardian said destinations likely to make it onto the list for travel from May 17 include Portugal, Malta and Gibraltar.
The Telegraph said popular holiday destinations like Spain, Greece and France could be added by the end of June, but will initially start off amber.
The change in travel advise could mean nations like Greece could see their mainlands excluded from the green list but the popular holiday islands included.
It is also likely Israel would be added to the green list, due to its extremely high vaccination numbers and low number of cases.
Israel has also previously said it was ready to welcome back vaccinated British holidaymakers from May.
The prime minister urged caution on Monday, saying we don’t «want to see an influx of disease from anywhere else.»
Boris Johnson said: «I certainly don’t and we have got to be very, very tough, and we have got to be as cautious as we can, whilst we continue to open up.»
Many tourism reliant countries are desperate to get their economies back up and running, with governments developing incentives to entice holidaymakers to choose their nation.
How does the traffic light system work?
The government will use the traffic light system and put every nation in a category depending on their current Covid situation.
Assessments will be based on a range of factors, including the proportion of a country’s population which has been vaccinated, rates of infection, emerging new variants and the country’s access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing.
The rules for people returning from each category are:
Green: There is no need to self-isolate. Take a pre-departure test and a PCR test on day two of your arrival in the UK.
Amber: Self-isolate for 10 days, unless you receive a negative result from a test taken at least five days after arrival. Take a pre-departure test, and PCR tests on day two and day eight of your arrival in the UK.
Red: Spend 10 days in a quarantine hotel. Take a pre-departure test, and PCR tests on day two and day eight of your arrival in the UK.
Malta has promised to pay foreign travellers up to €100 (£87) when they book to stay at a hotel for at least three nights from June.Along with Portugal, Malta and Gibraltar, Thomas Cook chief executive Alan French said he hoped Spain and Croatia would be on the Green list by the end of June and added «it would be nice if Turkey was open.»He told the BBC on Monday: «When we look at what is going on in those countries, both in terms of infection rates and how they are preparing for holidaymakers, I think there is great progress being made.»
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According to Our World in Data, only Israel has lower numbers of Covid cases per million people than the UK at the moment, with Portugal and Malta only slightly above.
On a seven day rolling average per million people, Israel has 8.5 cases, with the UK at 31.5.
Spain has 159, France has 318 and Turkey has 394.
The United States, which is popular with British tourists, currently has 149 cases per million people over a seven day rolling average.
The US is also one of the few nations that can compare to the UK’s vaccination rates.
Speculation over which counties could be on the green list comes as the EU revealed plans to reopen its borders to holidaymakers from countries with low virus rates by the start of June.
The European Commission said it is proposing “to allow entry to the EU for nonessential reasons not only for all persons coming from countries with a good epidemiological situation, but also all people who have received the last recommended dose of an EU-authorised vaccine”.
An EU official said the UK may be on the list of countries that are deemed to enter the bloc. The individual, who was not authorised to be quoted because the proposal has yet to be adopted, said Israel would definitely be on the list.