Government reveals 12 countries where English travellers can go on holiday without isolating when they return

Holidays should only be booked with the promise of a refund if the coronavirus situation changes, travellers have been told, as the first steps were taken to open up international travel.

Grant Shapps. Photo: PA

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced today that there were 12 countries where Brits could travel to from May 17 and not have to self-isolate on their return.

These included Portugal, Gibraltar, and Israel, however Turkey, the Maldives and Nepal have all been added to the so-called red list where travellers returning would be required to stay in a quarantine hotel for 11 nights at a cost of £1,750 for solo travellers.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Mr Shapps said the approach was “necessarily cautious” and that the Government must “make absolutely sure” the countries the UK reconnects with are safe.

But even those returning from safe countries would face delays at the border, as it was revealed processing each person entering the country would take up to 15 times longer than normal.

Border Force director general Paul Lincoln said: “There will continue to be additional health checks for every person crossing our border and inevitably that means it will take longer for most people to enter the UK.

“These measures have been put in place to protect the hard-fought gains and sacrifices that have been made by individuals and society in the UK, minimising the risk of importing variants while protecting the success of our vaccine rollout.”

Mr Shapps said: “I’m afraid we do expect longer delays at airports.”

And he urged travellers not to book holidays that do not include a refund policy in case the country’s Covid situation changes.

“Green list countries will be placed on a watch list,” he said.

“If we start to have any concerns, and if it is necessary because of a new upswing in cases or a new variant, we will not hesitate to act fast and withdraw green status.”

He added: “Our strong advice is not to book any holiday which does not include a refund in the event that the Covid-related situation changes and you’re able to cancel.”

The green list also consists of Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, Iceland and the Faroe Islands and the Falklands.

This is in addition to the remote territories of the Falklands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Saint Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha.

But not all of those countries are accepting visitors.

Mr Shapps said: “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.

“In fact, more new cases of Covid have been diagnosed around the world in the last seven days than at any time since the pandemic began.”

He added: “That’s why today’s announcement, removing the stay in the UK restrictions from May 17, is necessarily cautious.

“We must make absolutely sure that the countries we reconnect with are safe, that their infection rates are low and their vaccination rates are high.

“It means making sure we are not incubating the most dangerous variants that they’re not and that they have safe and secure surveillance in place.”

Mr Shapps also announced that from May 17, people who have had both doses of a coronavirus vaccine will be able to demonstrate their status on the NHS app currently used to book medical appointments and order repeat prescriptions.

People who do not have the app – which is different from the Covid-19 app – will be able to request an NHS letter from that date.

The most popular European destinations with UK holidaymakers – such as Spain, Italy, France and Greece – are on the amber list.

That means people returning from those countries must self-isolate at home for at least five days.