By Ben Kerrigan-
The EU has confirms it will open its boarders to brits to travel quarantine free as from June.
The EU said it will reopen to holidaymakers from countries with low Covid infection rates such as the UK, and to anyone who has been fully vaccinated, by the start of June under a European Commission plan.
A traffic light system will be announced this week under which countries will be added to green, amber and red lists, with different rules regarding issues such as quarantine of returning travellers for each list.
Senior UK government sources said the number of destinations to which Brits can travel quarantine-free from 17 May could be in single figures – despite pressure from Conservative MPs for the UK .
Sources say a significant number of countries on the list are unlikely to be major holiday destinations
One Whitehall source said changes could come quite rapidly over the summer as the list of green countries is reviewed every three weeks.
“It will be a cautious approach, but then things could start to change quickly,” the source said.
Prime minister, Boris Johnson, said that he did not want to see an “influx of disease” once international travel resumes, which is why the government said it is being “as cautious as we can” with the roadmap.
“We do want to do some opening up on 17 May but I don’t think that the people of this country want to see an influx of disease from anywhere else,” the prime minister told reporters during a campaign visit to Hartlepool. “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.”
The government will have flexibility to rapidly remove countries from the green or amber lists if cases spiral quickly, but more routinely countries will be added to a “watch list”, raising questions about the implications for cancellations and insurance.
Portugal, Malta and Gibraltar are likely to be green list countries, where testing will be required before travel but not quarantine after returning.
Popular destinations like Spain and France are expected to be on the amber list initially where home quarantine is still required. Red list countries, which are likely to include Brazil, UAE and South Africa, require quarantine in government-mandated hotels.
The government will give the go-ahead for international travel to recommence on 17 May, and official advice to “minimise travel” will change to “travel safely, plan ahead” with no advice on limiting travel around the UK.
Leader of the Labour Party,, Keir Starmer, warned there should not be a repeat of the “chopping and changing” of the travel corridors list introduced last summer. “We need to be very careful. I think it’s clear that the virus is increasing in some countries around the world, so we have to be very, very careful,” he told reporters during a campaign visit to Lewisham.
Agreement on opening of European borders is due to be sought from EU member states during meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Only seven countries worldwide are on a green list allowing for non-essential travel. The commission is proposing to increase the threshold of 14-day cumulative Covid-19 case notification rate from 25 to 100. The UK’s rate is about 23.2 per 100,000 people.
A senior official said the UK could be added to the green list but that it would depend on a reciprocal willingness to open its borders to all EU citizens. “The figures for the UK are good,” the EU official said. “Those vaccinated in the UK will be eligible to travel to the EU but [we are] mindful of other aspects: reciprocity. It is still a principle under this new recommendation.”
Johnson also confirmed that the UK is likely to relax social distancing measures on 21 June when the government intends to loosen all remaining restrictions on hospitality and social gatherings. However, it is likely to mean that masks remain mandatory in some indoor settings.
“I think we have got a good chance of being able to dispense with the one-metre plus from 21 June,” Johnson said. “That is still dependent on the data, we can’t say it categorically yet, we have got to look at the epidemiology as we progress, we have got to look at where we get to with the disease. But that’s what it feels like to me right now.”