Holidaymakers face fresh confusion today as Spain welcomes tourists despite being on the government’s ‘amber list’ – while France prepares to impose tougher restrictions on travellers.
Madrid is following Portugal in letting in Britons without any requirement for tests or proof of vaccination, but ministers have again urged sunseekers not to head to the popular destination.
Meanwhile, French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has suggested it will go the other way and impose tighter controls on visitors from the UK due to fears over the Indian variant.
Mr Le Drian also swiped at Britain’s past ‘failures’ to control the virus in the latest barb as EU leaders face criticism over their lockdowns and vaccine rollout.
The confusing picture will leave would-be travellers scratching their heads over whether and where to go on foreign holidays this summer.
Portugal is currently the only major tourist destination on England’s ‘green list’, meaning people can go without the need to quarantine on return.
But Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has hinted the roster could be expanded imminently amid pressure for France, Spain, Italy and Greece to be added.
And after fines for non-essential travel were scrapped, thousands of people have been defying the government’s advice and heading for ‘amber list’ countries anyway. They need to isolate at home for up to 10 days as well as getting tested, but do not have to stay at quarantine hotels.
Amid scenes of long queues at Heathrow today, travel expert Paul Charles told MailOnline: ‘People are voting with their feet. They are seeing that they can go responsibly. Many people can self-isolate when they come back.’
Spain’s tourism minister Fernando Valdes said this morning he is expecting the country to be added to the green list at the next review early next month.
He told Sky News: ‘What I can say is that right now Spain is doing a great effort not only in terms of vaccination, we have at least one third of our whole population with at least one dose… but also, we do have some holiday destinations which are very loved by British tourists such as the Balearic islands, Costa Blanca or Malaga, with our notification rates which are pretty low and by the same notification range of the UK, so I have to suspect that on the next review that the UK Government can provide… Spain is going to change on its notification.’
Spain (pictured, Mallorca) is following Portugal in letting in Britons without any requirement for tests or proof of vaccination
Despite the Spanish move, Brits could face tougher restrictions on visiting France (picturedm Paris last week)
Portugal is currently the only major tourist destination on Britain’s ‘green list’, meaning people can go without the need to quarantine on return
There were scenes of long queues at Heathrow today amid signs Britons are voting with their feet despite the ‘amber list’ being in place
What are France’s rules for travel?
France currently has some of the toughest Covid restrictions in the world, with leisure travel only set to restart from June 9.
It is broadly following the EU’s template for welcoming tourists, which are in the process of being updated.
A ‘traffic light system’ is expected to be fleshed out soon for what the restrictions for each category will be.
A present the EU’s confusingly-named ‘white list’ only includes a small number of third countries, including Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Thailand and Israel.
The UK had looked likely to be added to the safe group, but decisions have been put off amid concerns over the Indian variant.
Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez said on Friday that visitors from the UK and other ‘safe’ countries such as New Zealand, South Korea and China would be exempted from restrictions on travel.
‘I can therefore announce that from next Monday the 24th of May we will be delighted to welcome all UK tourists,’ he said.
‘They are welcome to enter our country without restrictions and without health requirements.’
However, business minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan stressed that Spain remains on the ‘amber list’.
She told Sky News: ‘The Prime Minister has been clear that, for now, amber means ‘please don’t go unless there is an urgent family reason and so on’ because we are still trying to slowly move through our road map to being able to open up on June 21 and we want to do that in a steady and careful way.’
She added that ‘we hope very much that, obviously, the amber numbers will become more green in due course’ but ‘at the moment, today, that means amber countries really aren’t safe to go to’.
Mr Le Drian raised the possibility of tighter restrictions for British tourists yesterday.
He suggested the UK could be put in a health category of its own, somewhere in between the strictest measures that France is imposing on visitors from India and 15 other countries, and more relaxed requirements being readied for visitors from the EU and some other countries.
Without giving specifics, Mr Le Drian said there was potential for ‘health measures that are a bit stronger’ but Paris is watching the progress of the Indian variant before making final decisions.
‘We hope that the variant can be controlled in a country which experienced real failures during the pandemic,’ he said.
‘However, the arrival of the Indian variant and the increase of cases of Indian variant in the United Kingdom pose a problem and so we are vigilant about this (and) in contact with the British authorities,’ he added.
‘It won’t be the red treatment if we have to do it. It will be an intermediate treatment,’ the minister said. ‘But it is not excluded – this springs to mind because of British tourists – that we have health measures that are a bit stronger.’
As of yesterday Germany is requiring people arriving from the UK to go into quarantine for 14 days on arrival.
French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has suggested it will go the other way and impose tighter controls on visitors from the UK due to fears over the Indian variant