Holiday destinations in up to 30 countries – including Spain’s Canary Islands, Portugal’s Azores and Malta – could make the UK’s green list for summer breaks from May 17.
The destinations, which are dominated by islands, have high vaccination rates and low prevalence of Covid, putting them in a strong position for inclusion on the “green list,” according to Government and industry sources.
Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, signalled earlier this week that the Government’s new traffic light ratings of countries would treat a nation’s islands independently of any higher Covid rate or lower vaccination rate on the mainland.
This could place Malta (44.1 per cent of the adult population vaccinated), Azores (36.1 per cent), Madeira (33.7 per cent), Canary Islands (25 per cent) and the Balearic islands ( 25.4 per cent) on the green list by May 17.
Greece is also running a campaign to vaccinate all the population of at least 85 of its islands, which would put Zakynthos and Santinori in the frame for early summer holidays.
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It follows The Telegraph’s disclosure this morning that the Government is racing to ensure Covid passports are available to prove people have been vaccinated as early as next month, in time for summer holidays.
Greece has said it will be ready to welcome vaccinated British tourists immediately when its resorts open up on May 15, while Spain and Portugal say they will throw open their borders from June along with much of the EU.
Responding to The Telegraph’s disclosure, Fernando Valdés, Spanish Tourism Secretary, said on Thursday that he wanted UK holidaymakers to “restart holidays” in six weeks, adding: “We are desperate to welcome you this summer. We've been having constant conversations with UK authorities.”
Mr Valdes said a travel corridor between the two countries, allowing quarantine-free breaks, was firmly on the table but only with Covid passports "easing" the return of safe travel.
The European Union's ban on visitors in 2021 is not expected to apply to the UK because of its world-leading jab programme that has seen more than 33 million get one dose, and 10 million of those receive both doses already.
Ministers have been at pains to stress, however, that they will not announce which countries are on the green list until early May, thought to be between May 5 and 10, in advance of the ban on non-essential travel being lifted on May 17.
The traffic light system for assessing countries as “green”, “amber” or “red” is based on vaccination rates, infection levels, prevalence of variants of concern and capacity to genome sequence the virus.
Holidaymakers will be able to travel to “green” destinations without having to quarantine on their return, although they will have to pay for a PCR test even if they are vaccinated.
“Amber” ratings - which are expected to cover most of mainland Europe including some of the most popular destinations for British holidaymakers - will require travellers to quarantine at home for 10 days on their return and pay for two PCR tests on days two and eight.
It had been previously thought that the “green” list would be just a handful of countries, but there is growing optimism that it could be more extensive as countries accelerate their vaccination programmes.
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Among those with the highest vaccination rates are Gibraltar (100 per cent), Falklands (75.6% ) Seychelles (67.6 per cent), Israel (62 per cent), Saint Helena (58.41 per cent), Cayman Islands (52.7 per cent), Maldives (52.3 per cent), Bermuda (48.3 per cent), Malta (44.18 per cent), United States (39.9 per cent), Anguilla (38.9 per cent) Turks and Caicos Islands (36.9 per cent), Bahrain (36.8 per cent), Curacao (36.5 per cent) Hungary (34.8 per cent), Azores (36.1 per cent), Madeira (33.7 per cent), and Aruba (25.8 per cent), Canary Islands (25.1 per cent) and the Balearic islands ( 25.4 per cent)
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, and said he expected up to 30 countries to be considered “green” safe destinations.
“Countries that will possibly be green include Israel, Barbados, Morocco, Maldives, Seychelles, Grenada, St Lucia, Antigua and the British Overseas Territories of Bermuda, Turks & Caicos, Falkland Islands, St Helena and a clutch of others.
“As such, it’s highly likely 20-30 countries could be green from the outset.”
Asked if the islands policy would be integrated into 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.”
A source said: “We don’t want the Madeira situation again, where the place was safe but then got sectioned off because it was part of Portugal.”
Mr Valdés said: “I believe that certificates is going to help us. Since the beginning of the pandemic we have been trying to put in place different means to help safe tourism.
“It is true we have passed through some waves of this pandemic, this virus, but now I think we are ready because we do have vaccinations. We have been having constant conversations with UK authorities, these certificates are going to ease travel and help tourism from this summer on'.”
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, said: “With our vaccination programme going so well we don’t want or need to go backwards, especially if the numbers are so low within the islands themselves and we have access to reliable data around the variants.
“It could open up the green list substantially and really kick-start the summer for consumers, and we urge Ministers to resurrect it for the 17 May reopening.”