Government’s green travel list – are holidays really back on?

The weekend before the May election the front pages of certain Conservative-supporting newspapers were excitedly reporting that ‘Boris’ was about to announce that foreign holidays were coming back!

What a boost to give people just before an election. Especially when you are hoping that the general public will forget the 128,000+ official Covid-19 deaths caused by dithering decision- making, failure to control borders, and a woeful record on PPE (personal protective equipment) and ‘Track and Trace’ ‒ unless of course you own the firms given the contracts!

The day after the election, minister Grant Shapps announced who would be on the so-called ‘Green List’ of destinations. These are the countries from where we are allowed to travel back without requiring quarantine. Excellent! Twelve countries we can jet off to, for our summer holidays …..

Except it turns out not to be quite that straightforward. Because the majority of the countries on that list will not actually allow British holidaymakers to visit. Despite our transport minister claiming “We in this country have managed to construct a fortress against Covid,” most of the rest of the world knows that is utter rubbish, and would rather we didn’t come visiting, bringing coronavirus with us. Even when our own case-numbers are quite low, the UK’s inability to protect the borders against travellers from Covid-19 hotspots threatens to undermine that progress.

So, which countries are on the green list, and can we actually go there from 17 May?

Singapore is not open to UK visitors.

Australia is not open to UK visitors.

New Zealand is not open to UK visitors.

Brunei is not open to UK visitors.

Non-essential travel is not permitted to the Falkland Islands.

South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands are a British Overseas Territory, with no permanent residents and certainly no holiday accommodation! With no airport on the islands, a ‘holiday’ there is pretty much out of the question. But hey, it’s good to know you can return from these Covid-free, remote islands without needing to quarantine on your return to the UK.  

UK visitors to St Helena and Ascension Island will be required to have a negative coronavirus test no more than 72 hours prior to travelling (at a cost of £120-£160 in the UK), and will then be required to quarantine for 14 days on arrival. This will involve a daily welfare visit by the local police.

Tristan da Cunha is not allowing in any foreign visitors.

All non-essential UK visitors to Israel will be required to quarantine for 14 days, regardless of vaccination status.

If you have received both doses of a Covid-19 vaccination or can prove you have had a Covid-19 infection at least 14 days previously, you can travel to Iceland on holiday. You will be required to take a (free) coronavirus test on arrival, and remain in your accommodation for the 5-24 hours it takes to receive your results.

If you are not fully vaccinated, you will have to quarantine for 5-6 days, undergoing two PCR tests on days one and five, before being released to travel. You will also need to have had a negative PCR test prior to leaving the UK (at a cost of £120-160 each).

Following a mandatory negative coronavirus test no more than 72 hours prior to travelling (at a cost of £120-£160 each in the UK), all travellers are required to take a Covid-19 test on arrival and again on day four (at a cost of around £35 each). If you are fully vaccinated you do not need to quarantine for those four days, but if you are not vaccinated you must remain in quarantine until both tests have come back negative.

Following a rush of Brits booking holidays to Portugal, it wasn’t clear whether they would actually be allowed in, after the Portuguese government extended their ‘Situation of Calamity’ until 30 May. However, it was announced on 14 May that UK visitors will be permitted. Holidaymakers will need to show evidence of a negative coronavirus test no more than 72 hours prior to travelling (at a cost of £120-£160 each in the UK).

Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory, is allowing visitors from the UK to travel there from 17 May and they will not require any tests or vaccination certificates prior to entry.

So to sum up: of the 12 countries our government are suggesting we can visit from 17 May:

  • one is uninhabited;
  • five will not allow UK tourists in;
  • two require 14-day quarantine when we get there; and
  • of the four we can legitimately visit, two require visitors to be fully vaccinated or four days’ quarantine on arrival.

So your holiday options at present are Iceland, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar and Portugal.

It is certainly an eclectic mix of countries, and there are many other countries with far lower levels of Covid-19 infections than Portugal. However, it appears the government have looked for countries with low coronavirus levels, low test-positivity rates (if you test a lot of people and get a low number of cases you can be fairly sure you are picking them all up), AND high vaccination rates (although this doesn’t account for New Zealand, Australia and Brunei, who all have very few people vaccinated).

There are other countries that could have made the list using these criteria, including South Korea, Zimbabwe and Taiwan, but given that they either do not allow UK tourists or require 14-day quarantine, it wouldn’t have helped!

It would seem there are far fewer countries currently prepared to allow in British tourists without quarantining than our government would like. It is a mystery why they produced a list of places where we are allowed to go which is largely comprised of places that won’t allow us in, but maybe ours is not to reason why…?

“Polling station” by EEPaul is licensed under CC BY 2.0