Portugal, Gibraltar and Israel are among just 12 destinations on the Government’s new green list for foreign travel.
People returning to England from a green destination will not be required to self-isolate and are only required to take one post-arrival coronavirus test.
Holiday hotspots Spain, France, Italy and Greece have been added to the amber list – destinations which people are advised not to travel to, and from which arrivals must self-isolate at home for 10 days and take two post-arrival tests.
Health experts have supported the Government’s cautious approach in opening up international travel through a traffic light system, with one describing it as “sensible”.
However, critics have hit out at the number of destinations on the list, and have called for the Greek islands, the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands to be added. These islands include top tourist destinations such as Mykonos, Ibiza and Tenerife.
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Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Friday that the removal of the ban on international leisure travel is “necessarily cautious” and that the Government must “make absolutely sure” the countries the UK reconnects with are safe.
Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, supported the cautious approach, describing how last week there were more cases of Covid-19 globally than at any point of the pandemic.
“I know people are disappointed that they can’t go to France or Spain, but at the moment if I could point to one area that I’d be most anxious about, it would be variants and importation of infection,” she told Times Radio.
“I think that’s the territory we have to be most cautious and move most slowly.”
Her sentiments were echoed by virologist Dr Chris Smith, who warned that measures should not “endanger, imperil or undermine” the good work done so far with the vaccination programme in the UK.
But others believe that the approach has been too cautious, with several European countries not included in the “green list”.
EasyJet Holidays CEO Garry Wilson told BBC Breakfast: “The good news is travel is reopening and our customers can look forward to those well-earned breaks in the summer that they’ve been waiting many months for.
“I think the very disappointing news is just the number of countries that are on the list, and if you look at European countries there’s very few, and of those European countries the major holiday destination is Portugal.
“So we did think it was very cautious and it is really not aligning with the approach the Government has taken to open up domestic travel and we don’t think it is backed up by the science or the data.”
He added: “We believe, looking at the science and looking at the data, that places like the Greek islands, the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands, very popular holiday destinations, actually do meet those criteria and should be on that list.”
Maria Elena Rossi, marketing director of the Italian Tourist Board, said on Saturday morning: “The fact we are on the amber list is a pity because for us the UK market is a very, very important source market.
“Before the pandemic we had more than 12 million overnights coming from the UK but we are very confident the situation might change.”
Ms Rossi added: “Italy is developing several Covid-free zones, especially in islands, which is a policy that has been enforced in other countries.
“We are working together with the UK tourism industry in order to be ready as soon as possible.”
Virgin Atlantic also called for the US to be added to the green list, saying the Government has taken an “overly cautious approach”.
While Portugal, Gibraltar and Israel are planning to welcome UK tourists, the green list also features several remote British Overseas Territories and destinations where visits are heavily restricted, such as Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei and the Faroe Islands.
Australian finance minister Simon Birmingham told Sky News in Australia on Thursday that the nation’s international borders are not going to reopen “any time soon” because there has been a “clear message” it does not want to risk the spread of infection.
The traffic light system will be reviewed every three weeks, and there are four key tests the Government will take into account when deciding how to categorise a country.
These include the percentage of the country’s population to have been vaccinated, the rate of infection, the prevalence of variants of concern and the country’s access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing.
No plans on international travel have been announced by administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but Mr Shapps expects their rules will be “broadly similar” to those for English tourists.
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