The ‘red list’ alert system for travel explained - and which countries are on it

(Photo: Juan Carlos Toro/Getty Images)

As many areas of the world appear to be bringing their coronavirus epidemics under some sort of control, the UK Government's approach to international travel has changed.

While the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) still advises against all non-essential travel abroad, now a list of 'travel corridors' catalogues the countries and territories deemed 'safe' to visit.

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These areas are even exempt from the UK Government's quarantine rules, which dictate that travellers returning home from anywhere not on the list must self-isolate for 14 days to help curb the spread of Covid-19.

But it's not a fixed system, as evidenced by Spain's recent reintroduction to the so-called 'red list'.

What is the red list?

Technically, there is no such thing as the 'red list'.

Currently, the UK Government lists over 70 destinations on its list of countries with which a travel corridor has been created.

Every country not included on that list could in theory be described as being on the 'red list'.

Initially, the UK reviewed the nations included on the 'safe' list on a three-weekly basis, but now a rolling review system could see countries removed from the list at short notice.

Why has Spain been taken off the travel corridors list?

Spain - one of the most popular holiday destinations among UK tourists - had originally been included on the travel corridors list.

But a spike in the number of coronavirus infections and the reimposition of lockdown measures on citizens had led to a fear of a 'second wave'. In response, the UK Government removed the country from its exemption.

Health minister, Helen Whately, told the BBC the bringing back of the quarantine rules was the "right thing to do" as the UK's virus rate must be kept "right down" to avoid a second spike.

She urged anyone considering booking a holiday to "be mindful that we are still in the situation of a global pandemic.”

What do local lockdowns look like in Spain?

Despite things generally moving in the right direction for Spain, a number of local lockdowns have been reintroduced, with spikes in the number of new virus cases triggering fears of a second wave.

Recent reports of substantial increases in cases of Covid-19 in the regions of Aragon and Catalonia (which include the cities of Zaragoza and Barcelona) are of particular concern to hopeful tourists. Spain’s Ministry of Health provides a map with information on local outbreaks.

One of those outbreaks has affected sections of Catalonia, including parts of the Barcelona metropolitan area, and the areas of La Noguera and El Segria.

There, local authorities have asked residents only to leave their accommodation for essential activities, and meetings of more than 10 people in public or private space are now prohibited.

Authorities have also ordered the closures of nightclubs, gyms, and restrictions to the capacity and opening hours of bars and restaurants. These measures will be in place until at least 1 August.