The possibility of foreign holidays this summer has been given hope after the government confirmed coronavirus passports will be made available “as soon as possible”.
Many popular European holiday destinations have announced plans to reopen their borders this summer, with Spain stating it is “desperate to welcome” UK tourists.
However, it is expected that many countries will require international visitors to have been vaccinated against Covid-19, or recently tested, before they can enter.
Here is the latest on the plans for foreign travel.
When will foreign holidays be allowed?
Under current plans, the earliest date when people living in England, Scotland and Wales will be able to holiday abroad is 17 May.
However, this will be dependent on various factors, including the number of Covid-19 cases across the country and the success of the coronavirus vaccine rollout.
Northern Ireland has not yet confirmed its plans for holidays and travel, but chief medical office Dr Michael McBride has said it would be “premature” to book a foreign summer trip.
Will I need a coronavirus passport?
The UK government has said it will introduce coronavirus passports, also known as a health certificate, to enable UK holidays to meet the requirements to enter foreign countries, including proof of vaccination or a recent negative test.
A Department for Transport spokeswoman said: “We are working on a solution to enable residents to prove their Covid-19 status, including vaccination status, to other countries on the outbound leg.
“We are working on this as a priority and intend to have the solution ready as soon as possible.”
The Telegraph reported that a government official told travel industry leaders in the Tourism Industry Emergency Response Group: “We aim to give people the ability to prove their vaccine status by the time international travel restarts where other countries require it.”
The passports would initially only be available for people travelling abroad, and a wider scheme for domestic use is unlikely to be ready by next month, according to the newspaper.
However, the Transport Select Committee warned that the resumption of international travel is in jeopardy with “vague and costly” proposals not enough to reboot the aviation and tourism sectors.
It said a report produced by the Government’s Global Travel Taskforce gave “insufficient” detail to allow businesses and travellers to prepare for holidays to safely resume on 17 May.
It added that testing requirements could be “disproportionate to the risk” and may add £500 to the cost of a family of four visiting the “safest” parts of the globe where vaccine rollout is comparable to the UK.
Which European countries will welcome UK tourists?
Spain’s tourism minister, Fernando Valdes, has said the country is “desperate to welcome” UK visitors this summer.
Mr Valdes said that enabling holidaymakers to prove they have been vaccinated or recently tested are “going to help us”, and insisted Spain is “pushing hard” to persuade the European Commission to reach agreements to reopen travel between “third parties such as the UK”, as well as EU member states.
He said: “If we reach these kind of agreements from the month of June, we will be able to have a summer.
“Probably not as the one we had in 2019, but obviously the restart of tourism again.”
Several other European countries are hoping to welcome UK holidaymakers this summer, with hopes borders could reopen in early June.
Malta, Portugal, Greece, Turkey and Cyprus are among the hotpots keen to reopen to tourists, thanks to the success of the UK vaccination programme.
Travel expert Paul Charles, from the PC Agency, expects 30 countries to be on the green list – including Israel, Iceland and some Caribbean Islands.
Much of Europe will likely fall into the amber list due to infection rates, with Portugal looking the most likely to make it to green.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps suggested earlier this week that a country’s islands may be treated independently from the mainland as Covid rates can be far lower among isolated communities.
This could put Spain’s Balearic Islands and Greece’s Zakynthos and Santorini in line for early summer holiday destinations.
Asked whether islands will be treated differently under the traffic light system, Mr Shapps said: ‘The simple answer is yes. I want to do that again. I don’t want to go backwards, I want to go forwards.’
Diplomats from the EU’s 27 member states have already debated making vaccination rates the main factor in re-opening travel corridors in the coming month, with travellers expected to have to show proof of a Covid-19 vaccination, or negative test, to visit.
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