UK eases foreign travel curbs
Britain on Friday announced it was lifting a coronavirus ban on people in England going on holiday to Portugal and Israel due to their low infection and high vaccination rates.
"From May 17 you will be able to travel to 12 green-list countries... which include Portugal, Gibraltar and Israel," Transport Minister Grant Shapps said.
However, popular destinations such as France, Spain and Greece are not on the list, which is reviewed every three weeks.
Turkey, Nepal and Maldives were added to the red list due to rising rates.
The minister also warned that those travelling to green list countries faced a "different" experience.
"Today marks the first step in our cautious return to international travel, with measures designed above all else to protect public health and ensure we don't throw away the hard-fought gains we've all strived to earn this year," said Shapps.
"This is a new way of doing things, and people should expect travel to be different this summer –- with longer checks at the borders, as part of tough measures to prevent new strains of the virus entering the country and putting our fantastic vaccine rollout at risk," he added.
The green list covers Portugal, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Falkland Islands, and Israel.
Holidaymakers to these countries will need to take a pre-departure test up to 72 hours before their return travel and a single test on or before day two of arrival into England, said the transport department.
The government in London sets transport and health policy for England only.
Shapps said he expected the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to follow suit.
"If the epidemiological situation improves worldwide, it is expected that there will be more opportunities for leisure travel with a greater number of destinations added," his department said.
"While holidaymakers may notice longer than usual queues, it is vital we maintain our stringent border checks."
It is currently illegal for anyone in Britain to travel abroad for holidays, and anyone arriving from a red-list country must quarantine in a hotel for 10 days upon arrival.
Mark Tanzer, head of travel industry body ABTA, said the gradual lifting of restrictions was "slower and more cautious" than expected and would delay the sector's recovery.
"We understand that public health is the government's priority, and it was always expected that the return to international travel would be gradual, but the government must use the next review to open up travel to more destinations, using the traffic light system to manage risk," he said.
Two English football clubs, Manchester City and Chelsea, are due to play in the Champions League final in Istanbul on May 29.
Shapps said: "It does mean, I'm afraid... that fans should not travel to Turkey.
"The FA (Football Association) ... are in discussions with UEFA already on this. We are very open to hosting the final round."
Britain has been one of the countries worst hit by the pandemic, but is currently easing restrictions following a sharp decline in cases and deaths.
But Public Health England announced Friday it had named a strain of the virus from India as a "Variant of Concern" after cases rose over the previous week to 520 from 202.