It is the question on everyone’s lips. Will we be able to travel abroad this summer? And if so, where?
At this very moment, the rules are straightforward: you are not allowed to travel overseas for non-essential reasons.
But this could soon change. As part of the road map issued last month the Prime Minister said that May 17 is the earliest date that we will get away. On April 12, a newly reformed Global Travel Taskforce will report on whether it is safe to do so by May 17.
We now know that the taskforce is considering a ‘traffic light system’, labelling countries as green (no restrictions), amber (open, but with quarantine and test requirements) and red (banned entirely, or hotel quarantine on return).
In predicting which countries will be which colour when the system is announced, we have considered the following factors:
- How is the vaccination drive going?
- Did it reopen to UK arrivals in 2020, without quarantine?
- Is the Government in support of vaccine certification to waive quarantine for arrivals?
- What are the current case numbers?
- Does it have hotel quarantine, or other prohibitive border policies in place?
Since the pandemic began, the Caribbean has been the most reliable corner of the world when it comes to holiday options for Britons. Prior to the UK Government scrapping all travel corridors in January 2021, there were eight Caribbean islands welcoming British travellers, including the likes of Barbados, Cuba, St Lucia and Antigua. All require testing prior to departure or on arrival, or both, as a means to dodge quarantine. Given their willingness to introduce new protocols and their collective heavy reliance on tourism, it is quite possible the islands will start accepting some kind of vaccination certificate as an alternative to a negative test.
The snag, of course, is that the summer is not the best time to visit the Caribbean. June to November is the official hurricane season, and statistically you are most likely to encounter a major storm in September or October. So with everything in mind, a Caribbean escape could be a safer bet for late autumn or winter.
Vaccination drives are beginning on the islands, but at a slower rate than in the world’s richest nations. The islands have so far been reliant on vaccination donations, including 500,000 doses from Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India.
In Barbados, more than 50,000 people have already received their first inoculations (18 per cent of population). “This is a commendable start for a country that really did not have a lot in place for a vaccination programme,” said Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley.
Vaccines administered: 1,348,331 (8.8% of population have received first dose)
Cases per 100,000 over seven days: 32.1
Last week Portugal was finally removed from the UK's 'red list', meaning arrivals will no longer need to enter a mandatory 10-day quarantine in a Government-approved hotel. Adding to the good news, Portugal's secretary of state for tourism has made promising sounds about welcoming British holidaymakers by mid-May.
Rita Marques, Portugal's secretary of state for tourism, told the BBC: "I do believe that Portugal will soon allow restriction-free travel, not only for vaccinated people, but those who are immune or who test negative. We hope to welcome British tourists from May 17." She stressed that the situation in Portugal was “stable”, adding: "Everything will be ready by mid May."
The island of Madeira is already welcoming travellers who can provide evidence of vaccination. What’s more, case numbers are low in Portugal – 32.1 over a seven day average. The UK, by comparison, is at 56.1 per 100,000. So even with worrying signals of a 'third wave' on the Continent, as it stands Portugal remains up there as one of the most likely candidates to feature on the UK's green list when it is unveiled.
Vaccines administered: 5,993,363 (8.8% have received first dose)
Cases per 100,000 over seven days: 61.2
Spain has made a series of positive sounds about welcoming British holidaymakers by the summer. The country's tourism minister Fernando Valdés confirmed that Spain was in “discussions” with the UK over vaccine passports.
He told Bloomberg: “For us the British market is our main market. But obviously since we are a member of the European Union, the solutions have first to be part of the discussions in the EU.
“And obviously if that cannot be reached, we will be thinking of other corridors like green corridors with third countries that can help us restart tourism flows.”
The Balearics (Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, Formentera), has independently made positive sounds about welcoming UK holidaymakers from May through vaccination certificates. The Balearic Islands' Minister for Tourism, Iago Negueruela, told Telegraph Travel: "The Balearic Islands has proposed to Spain’s central government that the archipelago becomes one of the first places where the vaccine passport is trialled."
Bucking the trend of its European neighbours, Spain has seen a slump in daily cases, and currently has a seven-day count per 100,000 (61.2) similar to the UK’s (56.1). This makes it a strong candidate for the green list.
Vaccines administered: 127,783 (8.1% have received first dose)
Cases per 100,000 over seven days: 243.66
Earlier this month, Cyprus announced it will allow British tourists who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 into the country without restrictions from May 1. British visitors are the largest market for Cyprus's tourism industry, which has suffered heavily from the pandemic.
"We have informed the British government that from May 1 we will facilitate the arrival of British nationals who have been vaccinated ... so they can visit Cyprus without a negative test or needing to quarantine," deputy Tourism Minister Savvas Perdios told the Cyprus News Agency.
Visitors would need to be inoculated with vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency, he said. Along with vaccinated arrivals, it is likely that those who can prove a negative PCR test result within 72 hours of travel will be allowed to enter without quarantine too.
However, cases are rising in Cyprus. The island is witnessing its second spike in cases – up to 243.66 per 100,000 over seven days. This means it may be more likely to be listed as ‘amber’ than ‘green’ when travel reopens, if cases have not come down by then.
Vaccines administered: 13,066,109 (9.6% received first dose)
Cases per 100,000 over seven days: 158.56
Turkey is hoping to become the first country to allow Britons to travel for summer holidays without a vaccination certificate or negative Covid test.
This policy is based on the Turkish Government's conviction that the vast majority of Britons will have been vaccinated by the summer months, and as such the country expects to lift its Covid checks for British arrivals.
"In 2021, we expect a growing number of British tourists coming to Turkey," said Firuz Baglikaya, the head of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (Tursab), adding that UK tour operators have reported a surge in bookings for Turkish holidays, with Britons showing an increased interest in destinations like Mugla and Antalya in its southern regions.
However, this comes against a backdrop of rising Covid rates in Turkey. Currently 158.56, meaning it could feature on the ‘amber’ list before those cases are brought down to sustainable levels.
Vaccines administered: 90,150 (65.1% received first dose)
Cases per 100,000 over seven days: 609.18
The first country in Africa to start a Covid-19 vaccination programme, the Seychelles has set itself the ambitious task of becoming the first country in the world to fully vaccinate 70 per cent of its adult population. With a population of 97,000, and generous vaccination donations from the UAE and India coming through, this is looking achievable (currently 28.8 per cent are fully vaccinated).
Right now, the Seychelles is leading the way when it comes to rebooting its grounded tourism industry – the island is welcoming in vaccinated visitors from any part of the world. So long as you have had two doses of a recognised vaccine (including AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer), longer than two weeks previous, you can enter quarantine free.
Note that on January 7 the UK Government red-listed all arrivals from the Seychelles due to fears surrounding the South African variant, and the country is currently in the midst of its first serious spike in cases. However, if the Seychelles meets its vaccination targets, all evidence suggests transmission will fall in the coming months, making it a strong candidate for a summer escape – though you may wish to wait until late autumn or winter, to catch the weather at its finest.
Vaccines administered: 1,345,735 doses (8.5% of population have received first dose)
Cases per 100,000 over seven days: 145.4
Greece has confirmed it will welcome British tourists back into the country again this summer, from mid-May. Greece's tourism minister, Haris Theoharis announced that all Britons – whether they have had a Covid vaccine or not – will be allowed into Greece for a summer holiday. Theoharis is a big advocate for vaccine certification. Speaking to Bloomberg in February, he said: “People will want to travel, especially during the summer, and it doesn’t make much sense not to facilitate travel – to the extent that we feel comfortable – to welcome people who have been vaccinated.
“For those who have been vaccinated, we want to make it as easy as possible for them to be able to travel to Greece.” He added that those who have not been vaccinated will need to take tests to enter Greece. Greece’s own vaccination process is digitised and moving faster than many expected, and the country has a track record of controlling Covid-19 better than other European countries."
With all these things in mind, we are putting Greece high on our watch-list of countries for a summer holiday, if and when a travel corridors list is reintroduced. If cases continue to rise in mainland Greece, however, there is a chance the UK may initially form ‘green corridors’ with islands, as was the case in 2021, rather than the whole of Greece.