Non-essential travel ‘permitted’ by Foreign Office for Greek islands and much of Portugal – but industry still awaits green list
The Foreign Office (FCDO) has removed its advice against non-essential travel for a number of destinations, including some Greek islands and much of Portugal.
Recent updates to the government department’s country-specific travel advice say the exemptions are “based on the current assessment of Covid-19 risks”.
Israel, Malta and the US Virgin Islands have also been given an exemption. The Greek islands are Corfu, Crete, Kos, Rhodes and Zakynthos.
The FCDO currently advises against all but essential travel to Spain, including the Balearic Islands, but excluding the Canary Islands. It still advises against travel to the rest Greece and the Azores. It is unclear whether these destinations will form part of the Department for Transport’s green list.
It has now been confirmed that the EU will reopen to holidaymakers from countries with low Covid infection rates such as the UK, and to anyone who has been fully vaccinated, by the start of June under a European Commission plan.
However, senior UK government sources said the number of destinations to which Brits can travel to without having to quarantine from May 17 could be lower than 10.
People arriving in the UK from green list countries will need to take a pre-departure test in that country. On or before the second day after arriving in the UK, they will need to take a PCR test, which costs around £120, but will not need to quarantine unless they receive a positive test.
People arriving from amber list countries will have to quarantine for 10 days at home. They will have to take a pre-departure test, then a PCR test on days two and eight, but there will be an option for “test to release” in which they can end self-isolation early if they test negative on day five by purchasing an extra PCR test.
In both cases, test packages must be booked and paid for before travelling from a list of government-approved providers.
The operator’s announcement comes after Iata warned that the prohibitive costs of testing will impact bookings
Tui UK has partnered with a government-authorised test
Four packages have been created with Chronomics to make inbound and outbound testing affordable for travel to countries on the as-yet-unconfirmed green and amber lists, Tui said.
Customers will be able to order tests on a newly created Tui booking hub an hour after booking their holiday and will input their booking reference, departure date and country of travel to enter the site. The new booking hub will go live on May 10.
The packages are:
Andrew Flintham, managing director, Tui UK & Ireland said: “We have always believed that cost-effective testing solutions, as well as maximum flexibility, will make travel a possibility this summer and beyond. Our research has shown that customers are looking forward to their much-needed holiday overseas, but affordable and easy testing solutions was imperative to make this a reality.”
The announcement comes after the International Air Transport Association (Iata) warned that Covid tests cost more than some short-haul flights.
Its survey of costs for PCR tests showed wide variations in prices across 15 countries. The average minimum cost for testing was $90, while the average maximum cost was $208. Before the pandemic, the average one-way airline ticket cost $200, including taxes and charges. A $90 PCR test raises the cost by 45 per cent to $290. Another test on arrival takes the one-way cost to $380.
Willie Walsh, Iata’s director general, said: “As travel restrictions are lifted in domestic markets, we are seeing strong demand. The same can be expected in international markets.
“But that could be perilously compromised by testing costs – particularly PCR testing.
“Testing costs must be better managed. That’s critical if governments want to save tourism and transport jobs; and avoid limiting travel freedoms to the wealthy.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended that governments pay the cost of testing for travellers, but only France has so far complied.
Mark Tanzer, the chief executive of ABTA, said that the “requirement for a PCR test when you arrive back from a green list country could prove a cost-barrier for many people”.
He said: “Small changes, like requiring a PCR test only if the individual gets a positive result from a lateral flow test, would make international travel more accessible and affordable, while still providing an effective mitigation against re-importation of the virus.
“The government should also consider whether those who have been vaccinated can be exempt from testing requirements, should scientific evidence suggest reduced transmissibility.”