Only 12 countries make the initial green list – but reviews are to occur every three weeks
The government has revealed its green list countries – enabling quarantine-free travel into the UK.
Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, said the move was “necessarily cautious – that the countries we connect with have infection rates that are low and vaccination rates that are high”.
“We want a summer in which we can reunite family and friends, travel to places we love,” he said. “We want to start looking outward again.”
He said that travel is essential to rebuilding the economy, referring to “hard-hit airports and tourism sector.”
The full list of countries on the green list is:
Turkey, Maldives and Nepal will be added to red-list today, Shapps said. He added that France and Spain are not yet included in the green list but every three weeks from opening there will be a review on expansion.
Mark Tanzer, chief executive of ABTA, said: “Although it was good to hear the minister say he wants people to be able to travel this summer, this is a slower and more cautious approach than previously outlined by the government and will delay the industry’s recovery. We understand that public health is the government’s priority, and it was always expected that the return to international travel would be gradual, but the government must use the next review to open up travel to more destinations, using the traffic light system to manage risk.
“We also need the government to commit to supporting travel agents and tour operators through what will continue to be difficult times ahead. Travel will be one of the most restricted economic sectors coming out of the pandemic and this needs to be recognised through adequate grants to support these businesses.”
Separately, it has now been confirmed that the EU 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.
Gloria Guevera, president & CEO of World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) said: “We welcome this first initial step by the UK government to begin opening the door to international travel with the announcement of today’s ‘traffic light’ system.
“However, airlines and the wider travel and tourism sector will be hugely disappointed that the US, which has a similar vaccination success rate has not been included on the green list as it would have enabled the resumption of transatlantic travel, which would have thrown a vital lifeline to the sector in two of the biggest tourism markets in the world.
“The UK is the fourth biggest G20 economy in terms of international travel and tourism spend from business travel, which amounted to £7.5 billion in 2019, before the pandemic ripped through the heart of the sector. While we understand that protecting public health should be the priority, the UK is being too cautious and risks losing its hard-won competitive advantage achieved by the early vaccine rollout by being too slow to allow the significant resumption of international travel.
“Holidaymakers and business travellers will be disappointed by today’s news, with so few countries on the ‘green list’, while Europe steals a march on the UK by continuing to open up and welcome visitors back. We are also disappointed that UK travellers are expected to pay for expensive PCR tests, even when traveling from countries on the green list. This will make foreign holidays totally unaffordable for many families.
“We urge the UK government to work with its providers to offer more cost-effective tests for UK travellers, or accept the more affordable yet rapid and effective, antigen tests. After suffering the biggest fall in contribution towards GDP from travel and tourism of the 10 most important global markets – by a staggering 62.5 per cent — the UK can ill-afford to be this cautious.”
The government’s traffic light system categorises countries based on risk alongside the restrictions required for travel. The Department for Transport said that key factors in the assessment include:
- the percentage of their population that have been vaccinated
- the rate of infection
- the prevalence of variants of concern
- the country’s access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing
People arriving in the UK from green list countries will need to take a pre-departure test in that country. On or before the second day after arriving in the UK, they will need to take a PCR test, which costs around £120, but will not need to quarantine on their return – unless they receive a positive test.
People arriving from amber list countries will have to quarantine for 10 days at home. They will have to take a pre-departure test, then a PCR test on days two and eight, but there will be an option for “test to release” in which they can end self-isolation early if they test negative on day five by purchasing an extra PCR test.
UKinbound CEO Joss Croft said “Confirmation that non-essential international travel will reopen on May 17 is a positive step forward and will be celebrated across the sector, but our industry cannot afford another false dawn and a stop-start recovery.
“The sparsity of countries on the green list and notable absence of the US and much of Europe, along with the cost of testing and the continuation of quarantine measures, present further devastating barriers to business for the inbound tourism industry, which sustains over 500,000 jobs and would normally generate £28.4 billion annually for the UK economy.
“This is not job done, the important task of removing restrictions at our borders is not complete and it will therefore be many more months until recovery can really begin. We fully endorse a risk-based approach to reopening, but now more than ever we need Government to provide targeted recovery support for inbound tourism businesses to ensure the industry can play its crucial role in the UK’s economic revival.”