English holidaymakers will be free to travel to France, Spain, Italy and Germany without facing 14 day quarantine from next week, Grant Shapps announced on Thursday night.
The Transport Secretary will publish a list of more than 60 countries today (Fri) where the Government proposes to abandon its quarantine policy and open up the borders to free travel.
They will be rated under a traffic light system with travellers to the lowest Coronavirus risk “green” countries facing no quarantine on their return to the UK, although they may face restrictions in those nations.
They include countries like Australia and New Zealand which have closed their borders after bringing Covid-19 under control.
In a second group of “amber” rated countries including France and Spain, the Government has negotiated reciprocal arrangements so that English holidaymakers are not required to quarantine on either leg of their journey.
The Foreign Office will ditch its advice banning non-essential travel tomorrow (Sat) allowing people to take holidays overseas with regular travel insurance policies. But the lifting of quarantine has been delayed from Monday to Friday. The number of countries was also cut from 75 to around 60 at the last minute.
A red list of countries where the Foreign Office advice against all but essential travel will remain in force includes the USA, Brazil, Mexico and Sweden. Portugal is also at risk of being included on that list after an outbreak of covid-19 in and around Lisbon.
Scotland and Northern Ireland have opted out of the nationwide scheme and will only lift quarantine for “green” rated countries amid concerns that international arrivals from “amber” countries including France and Spain could risk spreading the disease.
Scottish and Northern Irish holidaymakers resident in the two countries will therefore be required to quarantine for 14 days on their return from “amber” countries even if they fly from English airports.
Mr Shapps had earlier yesterday accused Ms Sturgeon of obstructing and delaying the holiday getaway plan. The SNP claimed it was a “completely unfounded” allegation and accused the Government of numerous late changes to the list.
Ms Sturgeon warned that accepting travellers from countries with higher rates of Covid-19 without quarantine would “risk of bringing the infection back in.”
Pressed whether she would enforce a Scotland-only quarantine, she said: "If we end up in this position, we will have discussions about the practical implications of that as we go along.”
The list of exempted countries rated “amber” or “green” covers nearly all of Europe, the British territories including Bermuda and Gibraltar, Turkey, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan, Singapore and some Caribbean islands.
All 60-plus have been judged by the Government’s biosecurity advisers to be sufficiently low risk for holidaymakers based on the prevalence of Covid-19, that their infection rate is in decline and that their data on the state of the disease can be trusted.
At least 19 of the exempted countries currently ban any travel from the UK or require British travellers to quarantine for up to 14 days on arrival due to the risk of Covid-19 from countries with higher rates.
The 19 include Greece, which suspended UK flights until July 15, Cyprus, Hungary, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Slovakia, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, Bermuda, Trinidad and Tobago, St Vincent and probably Ireland.
The announcement will be not only a major departure from the blanket quarantine introduced a month ago but also a move away from “air bridges” which were originally envisaged as bilateral agreements for restriction-free travel between countries.
Instead, the Government is effectively changing the travel advice and leaving it to holidaymakers to make their choices.
A preparatory draft list of 55 of the countries, seen by The Telegraph, includes: Latvia, San Marino, Poland, Austria, Norway, Italy, Hungary, Turkey, Switzerland, Netherlands, Liechtenstein, Cyprus, Malta, Iceland, Slovakia, Serbia, Germany, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Reunion, Australia, Finland, St Pierre and Miquelon, Andorra, NZ, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Gibraltar, Spain, Greece, St Kitts and Nevis, Martinique, Monaco, St Lucia, Canada, Wallis and Futuna, Trinidad and Tobago, Montenegro, Bermuda, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, Brunei, French Polynesia, Denmark, Belgium, Estonia, France, Malaysia, Ireland, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas and Barbados.