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The first hint of summer holiday destinations that could be ruled safe for British travellers has emerged after the government updated its advice on visits to Portugal, some Greek islands and Spain’s Canary Islands.
The latest updates to formal travel advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) show the UK is no longer advising against “all but essential travel” in a range of selected places.
Portugal (excluding the Azores), plus the Greek islands of Rhodes, Kos, Zante, Corfu and Crete, and Spain’s Canaries, all saw updates on Tuesday morning that means holiday travel is in theory – though not yet in practice – now allowed.
However, tourism to and from the countries will remain banned under Covid restrictions until the government announces its traffic-light system for travel that can occur from May 17 at the earliest.
The so-called “green list” of countries safest to travel to is expected later this week, giving families and the tourism industry just over 10 days to get ready for the first lifting of restrictions.
Those who return from green list countries will not be required to quarantine, those coming back from amber list countries will have to self isolate for at least five days. Travellers returning from a red list country would be forced to make a 10-night stay in a quarantine hotel at a cost of £1,750 for solo travellers.
There is no guarantee that the Greek islands, Portugal or the Canary islands will be on the green list, but the new updates to FCDO travel advice will spark intense speculation withing the travel industry that they are being lined up for early easing of curbs.
The prime minister’s official spokesperson stressed that the foreign office advice about the risk assessment of each country was currently overruled by current Covid curbs on travel.
“There’s a distinction between the foreign office travel guidance and the overarching rules in place by government on restriction on travel, which haven’t changed and what guides whether people are allowed to travel. That remains in place,” he said.
The so-called “global travel taskforce” set up under transport secretary Grant Shapps is due to give its first clues to overseas tourism in coming days.
Assessments for the “green list” will be based on a range of factors, including the proportion of a country’s population that has been vaccinated, rates of infection, emerging new variants, and the country’s access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing.