Sat | Jun 12, 2021

UK to ease holiday travel ban, but keeps most quarantine requirements

Published:Friday | May 7, 2021 | 4:22 PM
Britain's Transport Secretary Grant Shapps speaks about COVID-19 during a media briefing in Downing Street, London on Friday, May 7, 2021. (Tolga Akmen/Pool via AP)

LONDON (AP) — Britain announced a “first tentative step” Friday toward resuming international travel, saying United Kingdom citizens will be able to travel to countries including Portugal, Iceland, and Israel later this month without having to quarantine upon their return.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the country's current blanket ban on overseas vacations will be replaced on May 17 by a traffic-light system classifying countries as low, medium, or high risk.

The “green list” of 12 low-risk territories also includes Gibraltar, the Faroe Islands, and the Falkland Islands — but not major vacation destinations for Britons such as France, Italy, Spain, and Greece, which are on the “amber” list.

Britons travelling to those countries, and many others including the United States and Canada, will have to self-isolate for 10 days when they return.

Britons hoping for an overseas vacation this summer without a quarantine do not have a lot to choose from.

Several countries on the green list are still closed to British visitors, including Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore.

Others are little-visited, such as the remote islands of Saint Helena, Ascension Island, and Tristan da Cunha.

“This is not a list generated and created to think about where people want to lie on beaches and then twist the science to fit it,” Shapps said at a news conference.

He said the list would be reviewed regularly and would likely be expanded.

“We in this country have managed to construct a fortress against COVID. But the disease is still prevalent in other parts of the world, most notably at the moment in India,” he said.

“That's why today's announcement, removing the 'stay in the UK' restrictions from May 17, is necessarily cautious,” he said.

All but essential travel from Britain remains barred to “red list” countries with severe outbreaks, including India and South Africa, and people returning from them face 10 days of mandatory quarantine in a supervised hotel.

On Friday the British government added Nepal, the Maldives, and Turkey to that list.

Turkey's addition, which takes effect Wednesday, throws into doubt the ability of players and fans to travel to the Champions League soccer final between two English teams — Manchester City and Chelsea — which is due to be played in Istanbul on May 29.

Shapps said the government was “very open” to holding the game in Britain, but that it was a decision for soccer's European governing body, UEFA.

May 17 is the next date on the British government's roadmap out of lockdown.

Pubs and restaurants in England can reopen indoor areas that day, and venues including theaters and cinemas can welcome limited audiences.

Britain has recorded more than 127,500 coronavirus deaths, the highest toll in Europe.

But recent infections and deaths have plummeted thanks to extensive lockdowns and a rapid vaccination programme.

Two-thirds of UK adults have received at least one vaccine jab and almost a third have had both doses.

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