Boris Johnson has braced foreign holidaymakers for disappointment, warning of “an influx of disease” if too many travel restrictions are lifted.
The prime minister said “some opening up” was likely from later this month – but said the government would be “cautious” about the number of countries on the quarantine-free ‘green list’.
That list is likely to be unveiled at the end of this week – after the latest scientific advice on the levels of Covid-19 infection – before the ban on overseas travel is lifted on 17 May.
But Mr Johnson, on the campaign trail in Hartlepool, said: “We do want to do some opening up on May the 17th.
“But I don’t think that the people of this country want to see an influx of disease from anywhere else – I certainly don’t.”
He added: “We’ve got to be cautious and we’ve got to be sensible and we’ve got to sure that we don’t see the virus coming back in.”
Asked if people should be starting to book foreign holidays, the prime minister said only: “We will be saying more as soon as we can.”
Mr Johnson also said he understood “people’s strength of feeling” about foreign tycoons owning football clubs, when asked about the protests that forced the cancellation of the Manchester United-Liverpool match.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to have disruptive behaviour, demonstrations of that kind,” he told reporters. “But on the other hand, I do understand people’s strength of feeling.
“And I think that it’s a good thing that we have been able to do things that make it pretty clear that the European Super League is not going to be appreciated by the people of this country, or by this government.”
The Independent has been told that only a “quite small number of countries” will be on the ‘green list’ – with the rest of Europe suffering more Covid cases, having vaccinated far fewer people.
Gibraltar, Israel, Iceland and Malta are expected be among them – and, possibly, the United States – but not most of the major Mediterranean destinations.
Only people coming in from green list countries escape self-isolation, although they will still be required take pre-departure and post-arrival tests at a cost of up to £100.
Ministers fear that holidaymakers will bring back new variants of coronavirus, some of which have the potential to evade the immunity from infection provided by vaccines.
For that reason, a cross-party group of MPs and peers has called for the travel ban to stay in place through the summer, to prevent “a deadly third wave and further lockdowns”.
Restrictions should continue with a review every three months, which would effectively rule out holidays until late August at the earliest, its report said.