For most of us in the UK, this year has been a long old slog so far. But finally infection rates are plummeting, the economy is opening up and the vaccine rollout is continuing apace – all of which is making people look ahead to the summer, and specifically whether we’ll be able to go on holiday abroad.
As of May 17, non-essential travel from the UK is no longer banned. The UK has dramatically loosened its border restrictions and will now allow in travellers from select ‘green list’ destinations – without requiring any form of quarantine.
As the UK moves on to the next stage of its reopening plan, the total ban on foreign holidays has been lifted, meaning UK residents can leave the country for the first time in months. Meanwhile, there are also new rules on which travellers will be allowed into the UK – whether they’re visitors from abroad or British residents returning from a holiday. Here’s what you need to know.
How will the red, green and amber lists work?
The UK ‘red list’ already laid out the countries from which travel was absolutely forbidden, except for returning British and Irish citizens plus official UK residents. As part of the latest government plans, this list has been expanded into a broader traffic light system for international travel.
Under the new rules, every country in the world has been sorted into one of three ‘green’, ‘amber’ or ‘red’ categories, depending on a range of factors. These include the proportion of a country’s population that has been vaccinated, rates of infection and emerging variants.
Those arriving from destinations on the so-called ‘green list’ will only have to provide a negative test result when they arrive. There will be no requirement to self-isolate – either at home or in a hotel.
Anyone arriving from countries rated ‘amber’ will have to self-isolate for ten days at home, while those coming from ‘red’ countries will still have to quarantine in a government-mandated hotel at a cost of £1,750 per head. (Though, from July 19, the quarantine requirement for those UK residents returning from ‘amber’ countries will be scrapped – as long as they’ve been double-jabbed.)
Which countries are on the UK green list?
The following countries and destinations currently appear on the ‘green list’ for England.
Antigua and Barbuda
Balearic Islands, Spain (until July 19)
Bulgaria (from July 19)
Hong Kong (from July 19)
Plus the following overseas territories:
Ascension Island, St Helena and Tristan da Cunha
British Antarctic Territory
British Indian Ocean Territory
British Virgin Islands (until July 19)
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
Turks and Caicos Islands
On May 11, it was confirmed that the initial ‘green list’ for Scotland would be identical to England’s. Northern Ireland has said that it will also allow quarantine-free travel from the same countries. Wales has introduced a similar traffic light system, though first minister Mark Drakeford has advised Welsh citizens only to travel abroad for ‘essential’ reasons for the rest of the year.
Bear in mind that not all the countries on the ‘green list’ will be willing to allow visitors from the UK, especially those who haven’t been vaccinated yet.
Which countries could be added to the UK green list next?
Shapps said that the ‘red’, ‘amber’ and ‘green’ lists would be reviewed every three weeks from May 17. That means several popular holiday destinations could well be added to the ‘green list’ on August 9, August 30, and so on.
Countries in Europe that look likely to be added to the ‘green list’ soon include Hungary (102 vaccination doses per 100, against six coronavirus cases per 100,000) and Finland (78 vaccination doses per 100, against 38 coronavirus cases per 100,000). Germany, meanwhile, has administered 89 doses of the vaccine per 100 population, with only 11 cases of the virus recorded per 100,000 over the previous fortnight.
Popular tourist destinations including Spain and Italy have advanced vaccination programmes (90 and 86 doses having been given out per 100 respectively), though their case rates differ substantially (215 and 17 per 100,000). That means Italy may make the ‘green list’ next time around, but Spain likely won’t.
And if your dream destination still isn’t on the list even after the next update? Have patience: it may not be long before it turns ‘green’ too. Keep your fingers crossed – that long-awaited holiday or family reunion could be on the cards very soon.