Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, has revealed the much-anticipated “green list” for when international leisure travel resumes from England on 17 May.
Only 12 nations and territories have qualified for “no quarantine” status for returning travellers: Ascension Island, Australia, Brunei, the Falkland Islands, the Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Iceland, Israel, New Zealand, Portugal, Tristan da Cunha, St Helena, Singapore, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.
Malta, and the Balearic Islands of Spain, had hoped to achieve green list status but were disappointed.
The only traditional summer-sun destinations on the green list are Portugal, Gibraltar and Israel.
Ireland retains its special status as a member of the common travel area, with no travel restrictions imposed on travellers to the UK.
Under the new traffic light system, countries are rated as red, amber or green, depending on the risk they are believed to pose of importing new cases and variants of coronavirus to the UK.
Travellers from green list nations must pay for pre-departure and post-arrival tests before the journey back to the UK.
The existing red list, requiring hotel quarantine, has been expanded with the addition of Turkey, the Maldives and Nepal. It now totals 43 countries.
Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, is host for the Champions League final on 29 May between Manchester City and Chelsea.
“Fans should not travel to Turkey,” Mr Shapps said. “We would be open to hosting the match. It is a decision for Uefa to make.”
The remaining nations – around 150 of them – are on the amber list. Arrivals from amber list countries must self-isolate at home for 10 days (or fewer, if a test after five days proves negative).
The new traffic light system uses data from the Joint Biosecurity Centre that evaluates the risk that arrivals from abroad, including returning holidaymakers, may harm public health in the UK.
The criteria are coronavirus infection rates, reliability of data, prevalence of “variants of concern”, genomic sequencing capability, vaccine roll-out and passengers connecting through key hubs.
Mr Shapps called the list a “first step” and said it was “necessarily cautious”.
He said: “We must make absolutely sure that the countries we reconnect with are safe. That their infection rates are low and their vaccination rates are high.
“Nobody wants to go back into lockdown – not ever.”
According to the Department for Transport, “Given that the virus is still spreading in many parts of the world, people should not be travelling to ‘amber’ and ‘red’ countries for leisure.”
Reviews of the green list are expected to take place every three weeks.
“The signs overseas are now more promising as a result of their vaccination programmes beginning to crank up,” Mr Shapps said. “We have to turn the key slowly.”
The green list is not reciprocal: many of the locations are closed to British travellers, and others will accept only tourists who have been fully vaccinated.
The Independent understands that the new governments in Wales and Scotland, as well as ministers in Northern Ireland, are expected to fall in line with the scheme for England.
Green list in full
- Faroe Islands
- Falkland Islands
- New Zealand
- Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
- South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
Red list in full
- Cape Verde
- Democratic Republic of Congo
- French Guiana
- South Africa
- United Arab Emirates
All other countries will be categorised as “amber”.
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