The UK government has confirmed that the ban on non-essential travel for travellers from England will be lifted from 17 May, with a traffic light system in place to guide travellers on quarantine and testing requirements for returning from overseas destinations. The announcement was made by the UK’s Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, on Friday afternoon.
As expected, Spain has not yet made it to the ‘green’ list and has been classified as ‘amber’ for when the system goes live later this month, meaning Britons are still advised against travelling to the country and a requirement will be in place to quarantine at home for 10 days on return.
The 12 countries making the green list are: Australia, Iceland, Israel, Gibraltar, New Zealand, Portugal (including Madeira and Azores), Singapore, Brunei, Iceland, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, St.Helena, Tristan de Cunha and Ascension Island.
Shapps confirmed that the lists would be reviewed every three weeks and that countries with higher vaccination rates and better epidemiological situations will be placed on the green list, allowing travel for non-essential reasons, including tourism.
The green list is expected to still require testing before travel, but with no requirement for quarantine on return, making these destinations much more appealing to British tourists.
Amber listed countries will still be designated as ‘essential travel only’ destinations and require travellers to quarantine at home on return. Red listed countries will be classified as ‘forbidden destinations’ and require any travellers to quarantine in designated hotels on return to the UK.
The initial classification for Spain will be a disappointment to many in the tourist sector, who are keen to open up to British and other international travellers as soon as permitted and begin its recovery from a year of significantly reduced revenues.
With Spain’s vaccination programme beginning to take on more of a pace and encouraging data on case numbers in recent days, it is hoped that the country may be placed on the UK’s green list later in the summer, allowing Britons to visit without the requirement to quarantine on return.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has stressed that the cautious start to opening up the UK to international travel is to ensure that there is no ‘influx of disease’ whilst other countries continue to roll out vaccination programmes and improve their epidemiological data.
The British government will also reserve the right to quickly remove countries from green or amber lists if cases rapidly rise in specific countries.
Conversely, countries with improving data on vaccinations and case numbers can be moved onto the green list, with epidemiological situations being closely monitored and reviewed regularly in the coming weeks.
Although disappointed by the current ‘amber’ status designated by Britain, Spain’s tourism sector welcomed the news earlier this week that the European Commission have recommended that foreign citizens who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, and travelling from countries with a good epidemiological situation, should be allowed to travel into the EU without additional restrictions.
The recommendations would allow vaccinated travellers this freedom from June.
The proposals that are being considered by the EU member states would allow travel into the EU for people who had received, at least 14 days before arrival, the final dose of an authorised vaccine. There will also be consideration of a country’s Covid data, with unvaccinated travellers allowed to travel from a country with a ‘good epidemiological situation.’
This would potentially allow younger tourists from the UK to visit Spain with limited or no restrictions imposed.
Spain’s tourism and hospitality sectors will be closely following further announcements from the EU and Britain in the coming weeks, as it plans ahead for the summer and a much hoped for return to international tourism.