The cost of travel to potential ‘green list’ destinations soared last night as Downing Street prepared to unveil a list of destinations British holidaymakers are free to visit later this month.
Flights to resorts in Portugal more than doubled in price for May 17 following suggestions it may be among a ‘handful’ of destinations set to offer quarantine-free travel.
Among the countries tipped to make the first ‘green list’ are Malta, Iceland, Israel, Gibraltar and possibly Portugal.
But most of Europe – including France, Spain, Greece and Italy – will be ‘amber’.
The list will be finalised by Cabinet ministers this morning before being unveiled at a Downing Street briefing in the afternoon led by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
But despite insiders warning there will be a ‘very small’ number of countries subject to the loosest rules when the ban on non-essential travel lifts, demand for flights has surged.
Among the countries tipped to make the first ‘green list’ are Malta, Iceland, Israel, Gibraltar and possibly Portugal. Pictured: Tel Aviv in Israel
British Airways is charging £530 for a flight from Heathrow to the Algarve on May 17, compared to £234 for passengers flying the same route two days earlier.
A Ryanair flight from Stansted to Portugal’s capital Lisbon on the day overseas leisure travel restarts is £152, compared with £15 on May 16.
EasyJet is charging £234 for a flight from Luton to the Algarve on May 17, but just £73 the following day.
Airlines increase prices in line with demand, indicating that many holidaymakers are hoping Portugal is categorised as a low-risk destination for coronavirus.
England will adopt a traffic light system when the blanket travel ban lifts on May 17, with destinations placed on green, amber and red lists depending on the perceived threat of imported Covid cases.
The ‘green list’ – deemed the most low risk – has been drawn up based on data about the global Covid picture from advisory body The Joint Biosecurity Centre.
People walk outside St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta, as Malta may be one of the countries added to the ‘green list’ today
The list will be finalised by Cabinet ministers this morning before being unveiled at a Downing Street briefing in the afternoon led by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. Pictured: Gibraltar
It means going on holiday abroad will not be banned for the first time since January.
Leisure travel with no quarantine on return will only be possible to countries designated ‘green’ under the system.
But holidaymakers returning from these countries will still be required to take two tests, one within three days of flying back to the UK and another within 48 hours of arrival. This will apply to vaccinated as well as unvaccinated passengers.
Holidaymakers from amber countries will have to take a second post-arrival test on day eight as well as self-isolate at home for ten days.
Arrivals from red countries will have to quarantine in hotels at their own expense for 11 nights.
Assessments 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.
Tourists sunbathing in Praia do Camilo, Lagos, Faro district, Algarve, Portugal
Mr Shapps is expected to reveal the long-awaited traffic light system for travel tomorrow
There is speculation the ‘green list’ may feature destinations such as Portugal, Malta, Gibraltar and Israel.
Whitehall sources say the green list could contain several ‘obscure places that people won’t realistically visit’.
The latest weekly rate of new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people is 21.2 in the UK, 26.5 in Portugal and 28.6 in Malta.
British tourists won’t need tests from May 17, says Gibraltar
British holidaymakers were today handed a much-needed boost after Gibraltar confirmed UK tourists will not need to be tested for Covid-19 following May 17.
Chief minister Fabian Picardo said the Rock will offer a ‘great British staycation in the Mediterranean’ after travel restrictions are eased in Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown.
The British Overseas Territory, close to the south coast of Spain, became the first nation to fully vaccinate its entire adult population in March.
Gibraltar is home to 33,000 people and has had 4,286 cases as well as 94 deaths.
Mr Picardo told Sky News: ‘Gibraltar has an open frontier with Spain and the rest of the European Union, and we don’t require PCR testing for those who come across our land frontier.
‘We therefore don’t think it would be appropriate for us to require PCR testing of those who are coming from the United Kingdom, which has a higher vaccinated population and a lower incidence of Covid than the rest of the European Union.’
Earlier this week a shift in government travel advice gave an apparent a hint of what destinations could be on the upcoming ‘green list.’
Tourists visiting a number of popular summer hotspots do not face a level of risk for coronavirus that is ‘unacceptably high’, according to the latest updates from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).
The FCDO is not advising against non-essential travel to Portugal (excluding the Azores), Spain’s Canary Islands or the Greek islands of Rhodes, Kos, Zante, Corfu and Crete.
There is no guarantee that the ‘green list’ will match the FCDO’s travel advice, but the latter indicates the Government’s current evaluation of the risks to tourists
The most popular European destinations – such as Spain, Italy, France and Greece – are initially expected to be on the ‘amber list’.
However, it is hoped many European countries will be added to the ‘green list’ by the end of June as the traffic light list is reviewed.
One source said ‘things are going in the right direction’ for this to happen.
Spain has a seven-day rate of 98.2 cases while Greece is on 113.9.
No plans for the resumption of foreign holidays have been announced by the UK’s devolved administrations.
Meanwhile Tui, the UK’s largest holiday company, announced it will offer customers coronavirus tests for a fraction of standard prices.
The cheapest package – aimed at people returning from green destinations – will be available for just £20, and consist of a lateral flow test and PCR test.
PCR tests alone typically cost £120 each, although several travel companies offer them for £60.
Tui said it is ‘subsidising the cost of testing to help customers travel again this summer’.
There are fears that testing requirements will make summer holidays unaffordable for many families by adding hundreds of pounds to the cost of a trip.
Rory Boland, editor of magazine Which? Travel, said the announcement of £20 packages is ‘great news – but only for Tui customers’.
He urged the Government to ‘reduce the cost of testing across the board, rather than have consumers rely on a system that is currently fragmented and flawed’.