Portugal, Gibraltar and Israel among 12 countries on UK Government’s green list for travel from May 17
Passengers will be able to travel from England to 12 countries from May 17 without having to quarantine on their return, the UK Government has announced.
However, it is unclear if this will apply to Scots as the Scottish Government has yet to reveal whether it will follow suit.
The green list countries are: Portugal including the Azores and Madeira, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, and St Helena, Tristan de Cunha and Ascension Island.
But UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps warned that many of these had restrictions on UK travellers, including quarantine measures.
He said France, Spain and Greece were not on the green list, but it would be reviewed every three weeks.
Mr Shapps said Turkey, the Maldives and Nepal would be added to the red list from 4am next Wednesday.
He said travel to those countries should only be “in the most extreme circumstances” and travellers must go to quarantine hotels on their return.
He said countries on the green list required travellers to take Covid tests both before returning home and two days after arriving back.
Mr Shapps said he was making “the first tentative steps to unlocking international travel” but it was “necessarily cautious”.
The Scottish Government declined to give any indication as to when it would announce any easing of international travel restrictions from north of the Border.
Its spokesperson said: “The First Minister has previously said that international travel restrictions won’t be relaxed until May 17 at the earliest.
“This is being kept under review and we would expect the new administration to announce its intentions as soon as possible.”
However, Mr Shapps expected its approach to be “broadly similar in design”.
Easyjet, Scotland’s largest airline, appears to believe that by responding to his announcement with extra flights from Edinburgh to Gibraltar and the Portuguese capital of Lisbon and from Glasgow to Faro in Portugal.
Ryanair announced dozens of extra flights a week to Portugal, including from Manchester and Leeds.
The Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA), which represents travel agents and the travel sector north of the Border, urged Nicola Sturgeon to follow the UK Government’s lead.
President Joanne Dooey said: “Grant Shapps’ announcement today is positive first step for travellers and travel agents alike and is to be welcomed.
"However, we now await Scotland’s position on this before we can be confident of the restart of international travel for the Scottish travel sector.
“The final meeting of the Scottish Government’s aviation working group was a constructive one, with positive news that the chief medical officers in Scotland were in agreement that that all four nations should move forward together.
"We now fervently hope that Scotland’s First Minister will follow suit next week, giving the green light to travel, for all reasons, to the countries unveiled by Grant Shapps, and that the Scottish restart will be concurrent with that across the rest of the UK.
The SPAA has always, and continues to, lobby for a four-nations approach to international travel as we believe this is essential for the whole sector.
“Our position remains that the cost of testing – particularly the requirement for a PCR test for each traveller on return to the UK – is too high and that affordable testing in the form of antigen and lateral flow is needed."
Easyjet chief executive Johan Lundgren said: “The decision to put so few European countries into the Green tier is simply not justified by the data or the science and is inconsistent with the approach to reopen the domestic economy.
“We have shown that unrestricted travel to much of Europe is safe and would carry very little risk for the NHS.
“With European governments starting to allow their citizens to travel restriction-free if vaccinated, UK citizens risk being left behind and unable to get the best rates for hotels as they will be booked up by European tourists.
“We call on government to provide transparency on decision-making and clarity on when we can expect other European countries to join the green list so consumers and airlines alike can plan for this summer.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, which represents carriers, said: “This is a missed opportunity and with so few countries making it onto the green list represents a reopening of air travel in name only.
“By contrast, the EU has said vaccinated people will be able to travel without restrictions, which leaves the UK at risk of falling behind and not opening up international travel to key markets across Europe as well as the United States.
“We strongly believe that, alongside the domestic economy, travel can be safely reopened and so we must see major additions to the green list at the next review point in three weeks, alongside a simpler and much reduced testing burden so that travel does not become the preserve of the wealthy only.”
Airport Operators Association chief executive Karen Dee said: “We welcome confirmation that international travel will resume.
"Given the success of the UK’s vaccine roll-out, it is disappointing that so few countries are on the green list.
"This is not yet the meaningful, four-nation restart UK airports and the economy need.”
Sean Doyle, chief executive of British Airways, which is launching Edinburgh flights to Portugal as The Scotsman revealed yesterday, said: “We're pleased that our customers are able to start travelling again to some countries, including Portugal, and we've put on additional flights from London, Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh to Faro to help people get moving.
“What's clear is that with high levels of vaccination in the UK being matched by other countries, we should see more destinations going 'green' before the end of June.”