Ambassadors back plan to allow vaccinated UK tourists to visit EU this summer

EU ambassadors have backed plans to allow vaccinated UK holidaymakers to visit the bloc this summer.

They recommended at a meeting on Wednesday that rules should be changed to allow non-essential visits into the EU by people who have had two doses of a coronavirus vaccine, a spokeswoman for the Portuguese presidency of the EU Council said.

The policy will need to be signed off by ministers of member states.

People in England are able to use an NHS app to display proof of their vaccination status.

A separate decision on whether to add the UK and other countries to the EU’s “safe list” will be made on Friday.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

Travellers from locations on the list are permitted to enter the bloc even if they are not vaccinated, but are generally required to show evidence of a recent negative test.

There are currently only eight countries on the list, including Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Israel.

Portugal and Greece are among the EU countries that have broken ranks by already welcoming UK tourists, but the addition of the UK to the “safe list” would boost the chances of a major summer getaway.

UK holidaymakers are currently prohibited from visiting several EU countries, including Spain, due to its ban on inbound leisure visits from outside the EU and Schengen Area.

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Matt Hancock will lead a Downing Street press conference later with the Government facing calls for clarity over its position in relation to overseas leisure travel after ministers appeared to contradict themselves.

A sign directs passengers to a testing centre at Heathrow Airport
A sign directs passengers to a testing centre at Heathrow Airport (PA)

With a new traffic light system brought in on Monday to allow some foreign holidays to resume again after months of coronavirus lockdown, Boris Johnson stressed countries on the amber list are “not somewhere where you should be going on holiday”.

Mr Johnson’s official spokesman, during a briefing with reporters on Tuesday, said holidays and leisure travel should still be restricted to the limited number of countries deemed safe by ministers, such as Portugal, which is the only major viable tourist destination on the quarantine-free green list.

But two Cabinet ministers appeared to offer a different reading of the rules, with Environment Secretary George Eustice telling broadcasters people could go to amber-listed countries as long as they observed quarantine rules on their return.

Environment Secretary George Eustice
Environment Secretary George Eustice (PA)

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart, speaking after Mr Johnson’s comments on the matter, told Times Radio the public should ask themselves whether a trip to a country on the amber list is “essential”, before conceding that “some people might think a holiday is essential”.

Despite the presence of a green list comprising 12 countries and territories, health minister Lord Bethell told peers he considers all foreign travel to be “dangerous” and urged Britons to holiday at home this summer.

Education minister Gillian Keegan told Sky News: “As with many of these things we have had throughout the pandemic, this has been about relying on the great British public to be sensible and follow the guidance we have put in place and taking their own decisions really.

“But, no, we wouldn’t advise going on holiday to the amber list countries.”

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Ms Keegan said there would probably be an announcement “a week or two before” the next stage of the lifting of lockdown restrictions on June 21 about expanding the list of green countries.

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said last week it is his “strong advice” that people should “stay at home and enjoy all that Wales has to offer” this year.

George Morgan-Grenville, founder and chief executive of travel company Red Savannah, said the industry is “facing a disaster” and cannot understand why it “has to bear the brunt of so much confused and mixed messaging from ministers”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There are 10,000 lorries every day coming into this country through British ports, and those drivers are only required to take a lateral flow test.

“So the idea that people not going on holiday is going to shut out every virus is nonsensical.”

The criticism came amid reports thousands of people had headed for destinations such as France, Greece, Spain and the United States – none of which are on the green list – with more than 150 flights reported to have departed on Monday when travel rules were relaxed in Britain as part of a further phase of lockdown easing.

Non-essential travel from Northern Ireland to the Common Travel Area – which consists of the UK, Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man – will be allowed from May 24.