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Britain is expected to be put on a “white list” of countries from where tourists will be accepted into the EU, but holidaymakers may still be required by cautious governments to quarantine and take Covid-19 tests.
The successful vaccination programme in the UK and limited level of infection will probably allow EU member states to add Britain to an extended list of countries from where tourists will be permitted on Friday.
As it stands, only Australia, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand are on the list from which non-essential travel is permitted into the EU but the threshold is being lowered and the UK will easily meet the criteria.
There remains significant doubt, however, whether British holidaymakers will be able to avoid quarantine and Covid tests in the EU if they choose to travel this summer given concerns over the emergence of the highly transmissible Covid-19 variant first discovered in India.
At a meeting on Wednesday, EU member states are due to give the green light to rules allowing fully vaccinated people from any non-EU country to enter. But there is negotiation between member states and the European parliament over whether governments will jointly lift requirements on tests and isolation on arrival for those who can prove their vaccine status.
A number of EU governments want to retain the right to impose testing and quarantine obligations on those entering their territory. On Friday, the German government designated the UK a risk area for coronavirus owing to the identification of the B.1.617 variant. Anyone entering Germany from risk areas must show a negative test result or go into quarantine.
Should representatives in Brussels be unable to find agreement on the issue of testing and quarantine, it could be left to EU leaders at a summit on 25 May to decide on whether there should be common rules.
With the UK government also warning against travel to countries on its amber list, which includes every EU destination apart from Portugal, the prospects for anything close to a normal holiday season remain poor.
No 10 was forced to contradict George Eustice, the environment secretary, who told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “We don’t want to stop travel altogether and the reason, as [the health secretary] Matt Hancock set out, that we have the amber list is there will be reasons why people feel they need to travel either to visit family or indeed to visit friends.”
Boris Johnson’s spokesman said it was still firmly the government’s position that people should not travel to places unless they were on the green list. “The government’s position is people should not travel to amber list countries,” the spokesman said.
Asked why travel was permitted to those countries and fines for international travel had been lifted if the government still wanted to discourage travel, Downing Street said: “We are moving to a situation where the public can take responsibility for their actions and I think it’s important to stress that by and large, that is what we are seeing.”
Thousands of people have headed for destinations such as France, Greece, Spain and the US, with more than 150 flights reported to have departed on Monday.
Speaking during a visit to a vaccination centre in north London, Johnson said: “I think it’s very important for people to grasp what an amber list country is: it is not somewhere where you should be going on holiday, let me be very clear about that.
“And if people do go to an amber list country, they absolutely have to for some pressing family or urgent business reason, then please bear in mind that you will have to self-isolate, you’ll have to take tests and do your passenger locator form and all the rest of it.”
Concerns have also been raised about the conditions for travellers going through British airports, where passengers have reported being told to wait for hours in close quarters with travellers from high-risk, red list countries that require hotel quarantine.
No 10 said it was “working with airports … to continue to improve processes” and said the government expected arrivals to be run in a Covid-secure way.
However, Heathrow appeared to blame the government for the delays, telling complaining passengers on Twitter that “waiting times at the border have on occasion been unacceptable and we have called on the UK government to address the problem as a matter of urgency.” The airport said responsibility for separating passengers was with the UK Border Force.
The chair of the home affairs select committee, Yvette Cooper, said there was a “super-spreading risk” inside airports. “If they don’t have those things in place at a time when we’re all desperately trying to keep the progress moving forwards, there’s a real risk that we’ll end up just going backwards again,” she said.
The European Commission had proposed on 3 May that member states together ease the restrictions on non-essential travel from third countries but a number of EU countries have already acted unilaterally.
The Portuguese government has said it would welcome tourists from the UK and some EU countries with low infection rates from midnight on Sunday but travellers will also have to show a negative PCR test made within 72 hours before departure.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: UK expected to be on EU’s Covid ‘white list’ of tourists allowed entry | Coronavirus