Holidaymakers face a series of blows today after the EU refused to put the UK on its ‘white list’ for non-essential travel – and Portugal could be axed from the UK’s ‘green list’.
Ministers are finalising changes to the travel categories due to be announced this afternoon, with the hopes of millions of Britons hanging on the decisions.
There is speculation that Portugal – the only major destination on the list – could fall victim to the overhaul, after cases saw a worrying rise.
Football fans celebrating Sporting Lisbon’s title win and Chelsea and Manchester City supporters attending the Champions League final have been identified as potential causes.
However, it is possible that other places such as Malta, Jamaica and Grenada could be added to the roster.
Boris Johnson also hinted yesterday that more countries could be added to the ‘red list’ that means travellers must go into quarantine hotels.
Meanwhile, Labour has renewed demands for the ‘amber list’ to be scrapped to prevent mutant strains from being imported.
And in another setback for travellers the EU has again delayed a decision on whether the UK will be added to its ‘white list’ of safe countries from which leisure travel is welcome.
Brussels recommends that member states lift travel restrictions on people coming from countries on its ‘white list’ – although member states are not obliged to follow the guidance and many do not.
Currently the list includes Israel, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Australia.
However, there are reports that Japan is about to be added, even though much of the country has been in lockdown.
The UK’s status is now expected to be reviewed again on June 14.
If Portugal is moved on to the amber list after ministers meet today, people returning from the country will have to self-isolate for 10 days as well as paying for coronavirus tests.
It will be a huge kick in the teeth to Britons who have already booked a holiday in hot spots such as the Algarve, believing they will be able to return quarantine free.
And it will also be another damaging blow to the already struggling travel industry, which had hoped for more countries to be added to the green list this month.
Yesterday Portugal saw its highest daily number of cases since March. And the country currently has a case rate of around 37 infections per 100,000 people – higher than the UK’s rate of 34.5.
The final decision will be based on an assessment from the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC).
Asked about the green list yesterday, Mr Johnson said: ‘You’ve got to wait and see what the JBC says and what the recommendations are about travel.
‘We’re going to try to allow people to travel, as I know that many people want to, but we’ve got to be cautious and we’ve got to continue to put countries on the red list, on the amber list, when that is necessary.
‘I want you to know we will have no hesitation in moving countries from the green list to the amber list to the red list, if we have to do so.
‘The priority is to continue the vaccination rollout, to protect the people of this country.’
Instead of being put on the amber list, ministers could opt to put Portugal on a new ‘watch list’.
This would allow holiday-makers time to react before the country is moved from green to amber.
In the past, holiday-makers have normally been given days – and sometimes up to a week – to return to the UK from countries where travel restrictions have been changed.
While Portugal is one of the countries facing being moved up the Government’s travel list scale, Malta could be one of the few countries moved down.
The Mediterranean island, a popular destination for British tourists, is currently on the amber list.
But with high vaccination levels and low infections it appears the most likely country to be moved down.
The Cayman Islands, Grenada, British Virgin Islands, Finland and some Caribbean islands are also among the possibles for the green list.
Cyprus’ deputy tourism minister yesterday said the country ‘absolutely deserves’ to be in the loosest category.
After today, the green list – which currently contains 12 countries – will not be reviewed until the week running up to June 28.
If there is not a significant expansion then, it will be July 19 or 20 before there is another chance for more destinations to make it on to the list.