Transport secretary Grant Shapps announced on Friday that just 12 places would be initially classed as “green” when international leisure resumes from England on 17 May.
Holidays are permitted under a traffic light system, whereby countries are banded as green, amber or red according to the risk of travellers reimporting cases of Covid-19, with restrictions of varying severity to match.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has advised travellers against visiting amber or red countries on holiday. However, in a further blow to the tourism industry, only a handful of feasible tourist destinations have been put on the green list: Portugal, Gibraltar, Iceland and Israel.
Greece, which previously announced that British holidaymakers would be welcome back from 14 May, has a “very good status”, according to the Greek tourism minister.
“We consider Greece is at a very good status regarding the epidemic at the moment and every week it is getting better and better. This is what the data shows,” said Harry Theocharis.
He added that the UK could have taken a “different approach” for the islands, where residents are being vaccinated as a priority.
Rodi Kratsa, governor of the Ionian islands region, which includes Corfu and Zante, said the UK’s decision to omit Greece from the green list and enforce quarantine on returning travellers was “unjustifiable”.
“Greece has proven credibility and efficacy in managing the pandemic crisis, and so has the region of Ionian islands, a region that is loved by British travellers,” she said.
“I am sure Britain will very soon change this decision.”
According to NHS Test and Trace data analysed by the Mail, less than 1 per cent of arrivals from European holiday destinations including Greece, Spain and Italy tested positive for Covid-19 between 26 March and 22 April.
The numbers were 0.8, 0.7 and 0.4 respectively.
EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren told the Mail in response: “We do not believe the government's decision to limit the green list to so few countries is justified and this evidence from the Mail shows that, even at times of high Covid in Europe, travel was a source of relatively few cases.
“With the huge success of the vaccination programme which is being used to open up the domestic economy, there is no reason why Britons should be denied the right to travel to their holiday favourites this summer.”
A DfT spokesperson commented: “We have taken a cautious approach to our green travel list to protect the country and our vaccination campaign from the threat of Covid-19 variants.
“The decision to add countries to the red, amber or green lists is made jointly by ministers, informed by the latest scientific data and public health advice and taking into account a range of factors.”
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