LONDON (AP) — The British government on Friday announced a “first tentative step” toward resuming international travel, saying UK citizens will be able to visit countries including Israel, Portugal and Iceland later this month without having to quarantine on their return.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the country’s current blanket ban on overseas vacations is being replaced by a traffic-light system classifying countries as low, medium or high risk.
The “green list” of 12 low-risk territories also includes Gibraltar, the Faroe Islands and the Falkland Islands — but not major vacation destinations for Britons such as France, Spain and Greece. Britons traveling to those countries will have to self-isolate for 10 days upon their return.
All but essential travel remains barred to countries with severe outbreaks, including India and South Africa, and people returning from them face 10 days of mandatory hotel quarantine. On Friday the government added Nepal, the Maldives and Turkey to that list.
Friday’s decision throws into doubt fans’ ability to travel to the Champions League soccer final between two English teams — Manchester City and Chelsea — which is due to be played in Istanbul on May 29.
Foreign holidays are currently illegal under sweeping powers the British government has taken to restrict business and everyday life during the coronavirus pandemic.
The changes take effect May 17, the next date on the government’s roadmap out of lockdown. Pubs and restaurants in England can reopen indoor areas that same day, and venues including theaters and cinemas can open to limited audiences.
Britain has recorded more than 127,500 coronavirus deaths, the highest toll in Europe. But recent infections and deaths have plummeted thanks to extensive lockdowns and a rapid vaccination program. Two-thirds of UK adults have received at least vaccine jab and almost a third have had both doses.
The EU also added Israel to a European Union safe list for countries it says should be allowed to freely travel to Europe for tourism, a statement said on Thursday.
The recommendation is not legally binding, and local authorities in member states of the 27-country bloc are responsible for implementing it, while having the right to decide which restrictions they want to ease.
Israel will open its borders to vaccinated or recovered tourists from 14 destinations starting May 23, Channel 12 reported Wednesday.
The destinations are: the US, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Malta, Iceland, Denmark, Ireland, Portugal, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong.
To curb the spread of COVID, tourists will be required to take a PCR coronavirus test before boarding a plane to Israel. Upon arrival in Israel, they will have to take both a PCR test and a serological test, which proves the existence of antibodies.
Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report