Holiday islands considered for green list
Islands such as the Canary Islands and Majorca could be placed on the UK green list of destinations for holidaymakers, a government minister has said.
The move may happen from 7 June, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said.
At present, people from England can holiday in green list countries without having to quarantine on their return.
But travel operators and airlines have been pushing to be allowed to fly to holiday islands when the rest of the country is on the amber list.
So, that could mean people could holiday in popular destinations such as the Canary Islands and Majorca even if mainland Spain stays on the amber list.
Mr Shapps told the transport select committee that he has “asked The Joint Biosecurity Centre to consider islands within their criteria and where possible they would look to include if them if facts stacked up”.
When pushed on whether this was possible by the review on 7 June, Mr Shapps replied: “technically that is possible, but I actually don’t know because I don’t have the data yet as to whether islands make the grade.”
What are the UK’s rules for foreign travel?
People across the UK can legally take foreign holidays – although Welsh residents have been asked not to travel abroad.
On England’s traffic light list, foreign countries are classed as green, amber or red – with different rules for quarantine and Covid tests in place for each.
Government guidance is that you should not holiday in red or amber countries – which include Spain and most other countries.
Holidays to countries on the green list – including Portugal – can go ahead without a need to quarantine when you return.
The list is reviewed every three weeks and countries can change status at short notice. There are similar rules for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Mr Shapps was pushed to explain why so few countries were on the green list when UK vaccination levels were high.
He said: “If you send people, even vaccinated people, to other countries, given vaccinations are not 100% reliable, then you are exposing them to risks that they don’t have if they stay in the UK.
“‘That’s fine’, you might say, ‘That’s their risk’. But not if they bring that back, then that is all of our risk, so we do have to move with the science.”
Mr Shapps said there is scientific analysis of each destination when decisions are made to include countries on the list, including vaccination levels, virus levels and ability to track how the virus is evolving.
At the moment this is a waiting game, he said, and that travel would change when other countries catch up with UK levels of vaccinations. “Part of this is having the patience to let this come through the system.”
He also said deaths in Germany and France are now higher per day than in the UK and allowing UK citizens to travel there exposes them to risk.
Mr Shapps added: “I am the Secretary of State for Transport, I want people to be able to travel, I have no other agency than [to] get people travelling, but we also recognise as a responsible government that it has to be safe.”
Mr Shapps added that people may be able to use vaccine certificates rather than tests to travel later on in June.
Earlier on Wednesday, the bosses of Tui, Jet2, Easyjet and Manchester Airport called on the government to expand the green list of destinations.
The holiday bosses didn’t feel that Portugal, the only mass-market tourist destination on the green list, is enough of an offering for the summer.
Tour operators want the British holidaymakers’ favourites of Majorca, Tenerife and Gran Canaria opened up, destinations they believe have good health protocols in place.
They want UK holidaymakers back on some of their favourite beaches.
Steve Heapy, the chief executive of Jet2, said: “We feel the government is overly cautious and that the list of green countries could be expanded with little increase in risk.”
He said that there was currently no benefit of the vaccination programme when travelling, adding: “People need a break, people want to get back to normal.”