The travel industry has expressed frustration and disappointment following the recent limited relaxation of coronavirus restrictions on foreign holidays.
The government has added 14 new countries and territories to its green list of travel destinations that travelers don’t need to self-isolate from on their return.
However, all but one – Malta – have also been put on a watchlist, which means they are in danger of getting back on the Amber list.
While some popular hotspots – including the Spanish Balearic Islands and a number of Caribbean travel destinations – are on the list, France, Greece, Italy and mainland Spain remain closed to British vacationers.
To add to uncertainty, there have been fears of possible new EU-wide restrictions on travelers from the UK over concerns about the spread of the Delta variant as cases decline across the continent.
At a meeting of EU heads of state and government in Brussels, Chancellor Angela Merkel called for strict quarantine regulations for those entering the bloc from Great Britain and said in front of the German parliament on Wednesday: “We have not yet managed to ensure that all 27 member states have the same entry ”. Requirements for people entering from virus variant areas, in this case Great Britain, but also in other countries.
“With us you have to be in quarantine if you come from the UK. This is by no means the case in every European country. But I would like that. “
After the first day of the European Council, Heads of State or Government welcomed “good progress” on vaccination, adding that the Council stressed “the need to continue vaccination efforts and in relation to developments, in particular the appearance and spread of variants to be vigilant and coordinated ”.
Meanwhile, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced that people visiting Amber List countries that have received two doses of the vaccine will not have to self-isolate upon return, which will be announced next month.
But there were concerns in the ailing travel industry that it would be too late to save the summer season.
Airport Operators Association executive director Karen Dee said the government’s “overly cautious” approach will continue to have “significant financial implications” for the sector.
“Any extension of the Green List is welcome, however small it may be, but we also have to be realistic: this is not yet the meaningful restart that the aviation industry needs to recover from the pandemic,” she said.
Matthew Fell, Chief Policy Director of the UK CBI, said: “These limited movements in Green List countries will be welcomed, but will not be enough to save the summer season for the international travel sector.
“International connectivity goes far beyond tourism and supports our entire economy. The successful launch of the vaccine in the UK means we should be at the forefront to safely resume international travel. “
Vacation company On the Beach said it would not take new bookings for July and August while so much uncertainty about countries remained on the watchlist.
CEO Simon Cooper said, “Booking a vacation to these destinations doesn’t guarantee that you won’t have to isolate yourself when you return.
“While this uncertainty persists, we will continue to stop selling holidays for July and August until we have more confidence that these holidays will occur with minimal disruption.”
However, Alan French, CEO of Thomas Cook, was more optimistic and said he expected a “rush weekend” of bookings.
He said the announcement was “fantastic news for our customers desperately looking for a vacation and waiting with bated breath for this latest update”.
Mr Shapps denied allegations that the government was too shy, saying that protecting public health remains a top priority.
“It is right that we continue this cautious approach to keep public health and vaccine adoption as our top priority while ensuring that our way out of international travel restrictions is sustainable,” he said.
The new rules will take effect on June 30th at 4 a.m.
The changes – which include adding Israel and Jerusalem to the green watchlist – follow the advice of the Joint Biosecurity Center.
There are also a number of red list additions that require returning travelers to stay in a quarantine hotel.
The Dominican Republic, Eritrea, Haiti, Kuwait, Mongolia, Tunisia and Uganda are affected.
The full list of destinations moved to the green list includes:
– Antigua and Barbuda
– Balearic Islands
– British Antarctic Territory
– British Indian Ocean Territory
– British Virgin Islands
– Cayman Islands
– Pitcairn Islands
– Turks and Caicos Islands