UK tourists face tough new restrictions when travelling to Portugal, Spain, Malta and Hong Kong, as concerns grow over the Delta Covid-19 variant.
Testing and quarantine requirements have been introduced by several countries as coronavirus cases in the UK continue to climb, with 22,868 positive cases reported on 28 June - the highest number since late January.
New rules for tourists
The Portuguese government has imposed a mandatory 14-day quarantine requirement on all UK arrivals who are not fully vaccinated against Covid-19, putting holidaymakers in the same risk category as travellers from South Africa, Brazil, India and Nepal.
However, the rule does not apply when travelling from the UK to Madeira.
Malta will be added to the UK’s green list on Wednesday (30 June), but the central Mediterranean country announced that from that day it will only permit UK visitors who are fully vaccinated.
Children under the age of 12 will be allowed to enter the country if they are accompanied by parents or guardians who have had both vaccine doses, while those aged between five and 11 will have to show evidence of a negative PCR test taken within the previous 72 hours.
Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Monday (28 June) travellers who are not fully vaccinated against Covid-19 must have taken a recent negative PCR test to enter the country, with the rule to be enforced within 72 hours.
This means the rule will be in place when the Balearic Islands, which include Ibiza and Mallorca, are added to the UK’s green list on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong has put the UK on its “very high risk” list, meaning arrivals from the UK are banned unless travellers are Hong Kong residents, a spouse or child of a resident.
The territory has also announced a ban on direct flights from the UK from Thursday (1 July).
German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants the European Union (EU) to ban all UK travellers from entering the bloc and the plan is due to be discussed by the EU’s integrated political crisis response committee, according to The Times.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will meet Ms Merkel at Chequers on Friday (2 July).
Rory Boland, editor of magazine Which? Travel Editor, has said the changes to entry requirements for UK travellers “demonstrate just how volatile international travel rules are at the moment”.
He explained: “The cost of these changes will once again mostly fall at the feet of consumers, many of whom will either have to pay to rebook their flight or holiday or pay extra for tests to gain entry to their destination.
“Many holidaymakers set to travel this summer will soon have balances due on their holidays, often for trips booked several months ago. Holiday companies should be flexible about these and not force customers to pay for trips that don’t look likely to take place.
“Booking travel currently carries considerable risk, and anyone booking a holiday should look for a good package holiday provider with a flexible booking policy that covers changes to traffic light statuses and entry requirements.”
Changes to the green list
Malta and the Balearic Islands are among the destinations joining the UK’s green list this week, along with a number of Caribbean destinations including Bermuda, Antigua, Barbados and Grenada.
The green list changes will come into effect at 4am on Wednesday 30 June.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps cautioned that all the new additions, with the exception of Malta, have also been added to the green watch list, signalling that they are at risk of moving back to amber. Israel and Jerusalem have also been put on the watch list.
A swathe of popular summer holiday hotspots currently still remain on the amber list, including Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece, all of which have a 10-day quarantine period for travellers returning from these destinations to the UK.
Mr Shapps said the Government would continue to take a “cautious” approach to reopening foreign travel.
However, he said the rollout of the coronavirus vaccination programme meant they could start to look at plans for easing restrictions on travel from amber list countries as well.
This is expected to allow fully vaccinated people in the UK to avoid quarantine when returning from locations on the amber list, with further details due to be set out next month.