Disaster for British holidaymakers as EU refuses to put UK on its 'white list'

Disaster for British holidaymakers as EU refuses to put UK on its ‘white list’ for non-essential travel as Portugal faces axe from UK’s ‘green list’ TODAY amid fears football fans have fuelled surge in Covid cases

  • Speculation that Portugal faces being moved from the UK’s travel ‘green list’ to the ‘amber list’ in review today
  • If it is moved to tougher category, travellers will have to self-isolate for 10 days and take a coronavirus test 
  • Move would be another bitter blow to holidaymakers wanting to go abroad this summer and travel industry
  • Greece and Spain look set to remain on the amber list this month with Malta the only possible addition 

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Holidaymakers face a series of blows today after the EU refused to put the UK on its ‘white list’ for non-essential travel – and Portugal could be axed from the UK’s ‘green list’.

Ministers are finalising changes to the travel categories due to be announced this afternoon, with the hopes of millions of Britons hanging on the decisions. 

There is speculation that Portugal – the only major destination on the list – could fall victim to the overhaul, after cases saw a worrying rise. 

Football fans celebrating Sporting Lisbon’s title win and Chelsea and Manchester City supporters attending the Champions League final have been identified as potential causes. 

Boris Johnson also hinted yesterday that more countries could be added to the ‘red’ roll call.  

Meanwhile, Labour has renewed demands for the ‘amber list’ to be scrapped to prevent mutant strains from being imported.

And in another setback for travellers the EU has again delayed a decision on whether the UK will be added to its ‘white list’ of safe countries from which leisure travel is welcome.  

Portugal (pictured: A beach in Cascais near Lisbon) could be dropped from the UK's travel green list today - in a move that will be a bitter blow to millions of Britons hoping for a holiday abroad this summer

Portugal (pictured: A beach in Cascais near Lisbon) could be dropped from the UK’s travel green list today – in a move that will be a bitter blow to millions of Britons hoping for a holiday abroad this summer

The Government could move Portugal from the non-quarantine green list to the 10-day self-isolation amber list in its latest review of travel restrictions

The Government could move Portugal from the non-quarantine green list to the 10-day self-isolation amber list in its latest review of travel restrictions

The current UK travel 'Green List' as it wasn announced ahead of May 17. Portugal could be the first country to be removed from this list

The current UK travel ‘Green List’ as it wasn announced ahead of May 17. Portugal could be the first country to be removed from this list

Ryanair boss calls for holiday travel to EU and US to open up 

Ryanair boss Ryan O’Leary has today called for the Government to quickly lift restrictions on travel to the US and top holiday destinations in Europe. 

The airline chief said it was ‘absolutely imperative’ that ‘big tourist destinations’ such as as Greece and Spain be put on the UK’s travel green list by the end of this week. 

He told Sky News: ‘The restrictions should be lifted, we should be allowing British families to travel to the US and Europe, and also to return without having to complete useless PCR forms for people who’ve already been vaccinated.

‘Nothing is absolutely safe but it is scientists and doctors’ jobs to urge caution and care and worry.

‘The vaccines are effective against the Indian variant, it’s a scariant being used by the science and medical professions to urge caution.

‘It’s time that we got on with our lives.’

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Brussels recommends that member states lift travel restrictions on people coming from countries on its ‘white list’ – although member states are not obliged to follow the guidance and many do not.

Currently the list includes Israel, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Australia.

However, there are reports that Japan is about to be added, even though much of the country has been in lockdown.

The UK’s status is now expected to be reviewed again on June 14. 

If Portugal is moved on to the amber list after ministers meet today, people returning from the country will have to self-isolate for 10 days as well as paying for coronavirus tests.

It will be a huge kick in the teeth to Britons who have already booked a holiday in hot spots such as the Algarve, believing they will be able to return quarantine free.

And it will also be another damaging blow to the already struggling travel industry, which had hoped for more countries to be added to the green list this month. 

Yesterday Portugal saw its highest daily number of cases since March. And the country currently has a case rate of around 37 infections per 100,000 people – higher than the UK’s rate of 34.5.

The final decision will be based on an assessment from the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC).

Asked about the green list yesterday, Mr Johnson said: ‘You’ve got to wait and see what the JBC says and what the recommendations are about travel. 

‘We’re going to try to allow people to travel, as I know that many people want to, but we’ve got to be cautious and we’ve got to continue to put countries on the red list, on the amber list, when that is necessary.

‘I want you to know we will have no hesitation in moving countries from the green list to the amber list to the red list, if we have to do so. 

‘The priority is to continue the vaccination rollout, to protect the people of this country.’

Instead of being put on the amber list, ministers could opt to put Portugal on a new ‘watch list’.

This would allow holiday-makers time to react before the country is moved from green to amber.

In the past, holiday-makers have normally been given days – and sometimes up to a week – to return to the UK from countries where travel restrictions have been changed.

While Portugal is one of the countries facing being moved up the Government’s travel list scale, Malta could be one of the few countries moved down.

The Mediterranean island, a popular destination for British tourists, is currently on the amber list.

But with high vaccination levels and low infections it appears the most likely country to be moved down.

The Cayman Islands, Grenada, British Virgin Islands, Finland and some Caribbean islands are also among the possibles for the green list. 

Cyprus’ deputy tourism minister yesterday said the country ‘absolutely deserves’ to be in the loosest category. 

After today, the green list – which currently contains 12 countries – will not be reviewed until the week running up to June 28. 

If there is not a significant expansion then, it will be July 19 or 20 before there is another chance for more destinations to make it on to the list. 

The full list of countries on the government's green, amber and red travel lists

The full list of countries on the government’s green, amber and red travel lists 

Covid cases jumped by more than 36 per cent in a week today, the eighth day in a row they have been above 3,000 and the second day in less than a week they have reached more than 4,000

Covid cases jumped by more than 36 per cent in a week today, the eighth day in a row they have been above 3,000 and the second day in less than a week they have reached more than 4,000

Twelve more lives were also lost to the virus today — rising a third on last Wednesday's figure — after yesterday's recording of zero bolstered calls for No10 to stick with its roadmap

Twelve more lives were also lost to the virus today — rising a third on last Wednesday’s figure — after yesterday’s recording of zero bolstered calls for No10 to stick with its roadmap

The next destinations travel experts are tipping for ‘green list’ status 

Travel industry experts have highlighted eight new destinations that could be added to the government’s green list.

With Covid cases falling or staying at low levels in these holiday hot spots, Brits could be enjoying a summer in:  

Canary Islands

Balearic Islands

Malta

Morocco

Finland

Jamaica

Barbados

Grenada 

Today, Cyprus‘ deputy tourism minister said the country ‘absolutely deserves’ to be on the UK’s travel green list.

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Travel industry experts have suggested that case levels are low enough to move the countries down.

However, Spain and Greece, which are two of the most popular tourist destinations of British holiday-makers, look set to remain on the amber list. 

Meanwhile, Bahrain, Costa Rica and Vietnam could be moved up to the red list.

While amber arrivals are required to self-isolate for 10 days, and complete two PCR tests, arrivals from red list countries must stay in a quarantine hotel once landing in the UK – at the cost of £1,750 per person.   

Robert Boyle, former director of strategy at British Airways’ parent company IAG, said a number of summer hotspots could be added to the green tier.

He wrote in a blog post: ‘It still seems very likely that whilst Spain and Greece will not make it onto the green list, many of their islands will, due to lower case rates and higher vaccinations than on the mainland.’

Mr Boyle added: ‘Malta, Finland and Slovakia are fairly safe bets, based on high testing rates and low reported cases.’

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said a number of popular holiday destinations ‘really deserve’ to be moved to the low-risk tier.

He expects additions to the green list to include the Greek islands of Zante, Rhodes and Kos, the Caribbean islands of Grenada and Antigua, plus Malta and Finland.

But he said he would be ‘surprised’ if Spain’s Balearic Islands – including Ibiza, Majorca and Menorca – were added on Thursday.

‘They’re hugely popular and I’m not sure the Government is ready to encourage so much travel at the moment,’ he told the PA news agency.

Portugal is the only viable major tourist destination currently on the green list, but there have been reports it could be downgraded to amber.

The Government has urged people to avoid non-essential travel to amber and red countries.

Travellers returning from amber list locations – which include popular hotspots such as Spain, France, Italy and Greece – must quarantine at home for 10 days and take two post-arrival tests.

Several additions to the red list are expected on Thursday.

Mr Boyle explained that Bahrain, Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago and Kuwait ‘ought to be on the list’ due to ‘very high infection rates’, whereas Mr Charles warned that Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia could be added as there are ‘signs of increased infection in many parts of Asia’. 

There is speculation that Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, Kuwait and Bahrain might be added to the red list tomorrow

There is speculation that Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, Kuwait and Bahrain might be added to the red list tomorrow

Cyprus ‘absolutely deserves’ to be on UK’s green list, says country’s tourism chief

Cyprus’ deputy tourism minister today said the country ‘absolutely deserves’ to pe on the UK’s travel green list.

The Mediterranean island, a hugely popular holiday hotspot for British tourists, is currently on the UK’s amber list.

It means tourists returning from Cyprus have to self-isolate for 10 days on their return. 

Savvas Perdios told the Telegraph: ‘Cyprus absolutely deserves to be green-listed.

‘We have made a lot of progress, especially over the last month.’ 

The country’s current Covid infection rate sits at 36.95 per 100,000 people – on par with green-listed Portugal (35.58) and the UK (34.5). 

Yesterday, the country, which went into a short two-week firebreaker lockdown in May, reported just 58 new daily cases.

And Mr Perdios said around half of the country’s 875,000 population has been vaccinated so far.

 

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People returning to the UK from a red country are required to spend 10 nights in a quarantine hotel, at a cost of £1,750 for solo travellers.

Assessments of travel lists are based on a range of factors, including the proportion of a population that has been vaccinated, rates of infection, emerging new variants, and access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing.

Home Office minister Victoria Atkins said the public should ‘exercise their common sense’ about travelling abroad.

She told Times Radio: ‘We all want to get back to normality, pre-pandemic normality.

‘But I think (we) all understand we’ve got to take careful steps to do that.’

Yesterday Cyprus’ deputy tourism minister said the country ‘absolutely deserved’ be put on the UK’s travel green list.

Savvas Perdios told the Telegraph: ‘Cyprus absolutely deserves to be green-listed.

‘We have made a lot of progress, especially over the last month.’

The country’s current Covid infection rate sits at 36.95 per 100,000 people – on par with green-listed Portugal (35.58) and the UK (34.5).

Yesterday, the country, which went into a short two-week firebreaker lockdown in May, reported just 58 new daily cases.

And Mr Perdios said around half of the country’s 875,000 population has been vaccinated so far.

It comes as the Mail today revealed how foreign holidays are under threat because ministers are worried about a new Covid variant.

Scientists have alerted ministers to the mutant strain – thought to have originated in Nepal – which has apparently spread to Europe. They fear the strain is resistant to vaccines.

But a member of the Government’s SAGE committee of experts said officials should not be overly concerned. He added: ‘There are thousands of variants. This is a virus that is changing all the time.’ 

Health workers carry Ramjee Kunwar, 65, a Covid-19 patient from a helicopter to an ambulance after being airlifted from Pokhara to Kathmandu due to health complications

Health workers carry Ramjee Kunwar, 65, a Covid-19 patient from a helicopter to an ambulance after being airlifted from Pokhara to Kathmandu due to health complications

Scientists have alerted ministers to the mutant strain – thought to have originated in Nepal – which has apparently spread to Europe. Pictured: Passengers arriving at Heathrow Airport

Scientists have alerted ministers to the mutant strain – thought to have originated in Nepal – which has apparently spread to Europe. Pictured: Passengers arriving at Heathrow Airport 

And Tory peer Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith, chairman of the Airport Operators’ Association, said: ‘How many more variants have we got to be worried about? What matters is data and the success of our vaccination programme.’

The Government will today update its ‘green list’ of countries holidaymakers can visit without having to go into quarantine.

Whitehall sources said additions to the list will be ‘extremely limited’ amid concern over the Nepal strain and the slower rollout of vaccines across Europe.

There are even fears Portugal could lose its green status today, as the Nepal variant may have been detected there

It means holidays to the Continent may be severely restricted until August – the month now being targeted by ministers for a significant reboot of foreign travel.

The development is a huge blow for the travel industry, which has been brought to its knees by the pandemic.

Industry leaders and MPs have warned that more than a million jobs are at risk if most of the summer season is lost, with billions more wiped from the UK economy. 

Last night, even government advisers said the UK could not keep panicking every time a new variant emerges. Professor Sir John Bell said ministers should avoid ‘scampering down a rabbit hole’ when new strains are detected, and instead focus on hospitalisations, serious disease and deaths. 

Last night, MPs and industry expressed alarm at the prospect of foreign summer holidays slipping away. 

Tory MP Henry Smith, chairman of the all-party Future of Aviation group of MPs, and whose constituency includes Gatwick, said: ‘After a devastating year for our aviation, travel and tourism industries, this will come as a hammer blow to an industry that is close to breaking point.

‘Far from benefiting from a vaccine dividend, this reinforces that our overly cautious approach to international travel is a restart in name only.

‘We must ensure that we avoid a summer shutdown that will cause irreversible damage to businesses and communities who rely on international travel.’ 

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