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British holidaymakers could be allowed to travel to Europe within weeks

Sky News logo Sky News 04/05/2021
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Ministers are reportedly considering a handful of countries people from the UK will be able to travel to initially in the coming weeks.

Reports suggest the "green list" could include about a dozen countries, although some papers say it could be fewer than 10.

Read the latest news and updates on India's Covid emergency.

Several named Malta, Gibraltar, Portugal and Israel as likely destinations, while the Daily Telegraph said Spain, Greece and France could be added by the end of June.

The green list will specify which countries people can travel to without having to isolate for 14 days on their return and is expected to be released this week.

a man riding on the back of a bicycle: France could reportedly welcome tourists by the end of June © Reuters France could reportedly welcome tourists by the end of June

Boris Johnson has said the approach will be cautious to avoid "an influx of disease".

The prime minister said there would be "some opening up" on 17 May but that things must be done in a way "to make sure that we don't see the virus coming back in" to the UK.

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More on coronavirus:

Latest news and updates on India's Covid emergency

How continental Europe is emerging from lockdown (The Guardian)

How to get a Covid test for your summer holiday (The Telegraph)

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On the EU side, the European Commission is proposing to allow entry "for non-essential 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".

It did not say which countries would be permitted, but one unnamed official said the UK remained a "question mark".

a large building: Greece could be among the first countries to open up to Britons © Reuters Greece could be among the first countries to open up to Britons

Trade Secretary Liz Truss urged holidaymakers to wait for government announcements before booking.

Asked if travel would resume from 17 May, she told Sky News: "We are doing all we can to make sure we follow the roadmap and open up the economy and travel gradually.

"The really important thing is we don't move too fast and jeopardise the progress we have made - so people will have to wait a bit longer to be able to hear the news on what is happening on the travel front."

She said she would encourage people to wait before booking a holiday so they can see what the "details are based on the data".

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 28: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street to attend the weekly PMQ's April 28, 2021 in London, England. Johnson faces questions in the House of Commons in the week that has seen him face scrutiny over how the cost of refurbishment of his No 11 Downing Street flat was met. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images) © Getty Images LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 28: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street to attend the weekly PMQ's April 28, 2021 in London, England. Johnson faces questions in the House of Commons in the week that has seen him face scrutiny over how the cost of refurbishment of his No 11 Downing Street flat was met. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

The government fully supports safe travel but "we need to be cautious to make sure that we are not simply importing the virus after we have successfully dealt with it in Britain", Ms Truss said.

She added: "If we are able to have people go on holiday, I don't see any reason provided it is safe."

Paul Charles, who runs a travel consultancy, said travelling abroad for a holiday would no longer be illegal from 17 May as the government is removing the declaration to travel form.

The form is currently needed to specify which of the permitted reasons people are using to justify their travel, such as a business trip.

Beers sit abandoned on a ledge after police patrolled an area popular for outdoor gatherings in Marseille, southern France, Friday, April 2, 2021. With France now Europe's latest virus danger zone, Macron on Wednesday ordered temporary school closures nationwide and new travel restrictions. But he resisted calls for a strict lockdown, instead sticking to his "third way" strategy that seeks a route between freedom and confinement to keep both infections and a restless populace under control until mass vaccinations take over. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole) © ASSOCIATED PRESS Beers sit abandoned on a ledge after police patrolled an area popular for outdoor gatherings in Marseille, southern France, Friday, April 2, 2021. With France now Europe's latest virus danger zone, Macron on Wednesday ordered temporary school closures nationwide and new travel restrictions. But he resisted calls for a strict lockdown, instead sticking to his "third way" strategy that seeks a route between freedom and confinement to keep both infections and a restless populace under control until mass vaccinations take over. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

"It means anyone can leave the UK for any reason," Mr Charles told Sky News.

He said that while the green list might be "thin" initially, amber countries would likely be popular as people can self isolate at home when they get back.

The amber part of the traffic light system is set to require tests before and after the holiday, as well as 10 days' quarantine at home .

Around 20 countries will be on the initial green list, Mr Charles estimated, including 14 British Overseas Territories such as Gibraltar and Bermuda.

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - FEBRUARY 19: In this photo illustration,  a French passport and an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis are shown in front of the travel destination board in Brussels Central Station on February 19, 2021 in Brussels, Belgium. (Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images) © Thierry Monasse BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - FEBRUARY 19: In this photo illustration, a French passport and an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis are shown in front of the travel destination board in Brussels Central Station on February 19, 2021 in Brussels, Belgium. (Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)

He believes another 10 or so that meet government criteria will also be included - for example, Portugal, Israel and Barbados.

The travel expert predicts America and most of Europe will move from amber to green during June, meaning no-quarantine travel to the likes of France and Spain.

Professor Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London, who advises the government, said he was optimistic of something "a lot more normal" this summer.

However, he warned countries with high infection rates remained a travel risk and that COVID variants still had potential to cause a "major" third wave.

Skier Nathan practices ski down the Montmartre hill near the Sacre Coeur Basilica in Paris as winter weather with snow and cold temperatures hits a large northern part of the country, France, February 10, 2021. REUTERS/Antony Paone     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY © Reuters Skier Nathan practices ski down the Montmartre hill near the Sacre Coeur Basilica in Paris as winter weather with snow and cold temperatures hits a large northern part of the country, France, February 10, 2021. REUTERS/Antony Paone TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

"I think if for instance, by the summer, infection levels in France and Italy are the same sort of level as they are here, then there's no risk associated with travelling overseas," he told the BBC's Today Programme.

"The risk comes from going from a place like the UK with very low infection levels and going to a place with much higher infection levels and therefore having the risk of bringing infection back.

"If the two places are at comparable levels, and that's what the EU is saying, then there is no particular risks associated with travel."

Prof Ferguson said variants such as the one first detected in South Africa - which are believed to be more resistant to vaccines - were a "major concern" that could still spark a "very major third wave in the autumn".

He said it was essential to get booster doses, designed to combat these variants, rolled out once the main vaccination programmes ends in the summer.

Those in the top four priority groups should hopefully begin getting the extra shots from September, according to the government.

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