Britons’ hopes of arriving on the continent have been boosted thanks to two key proposals from the European Commission today.
First, people who have received both doses of a Covid vaccine for at least 14 days would be allowed to enter the EU for leisure purposes – regardless of which country they come from outside the EU. .
And second, even people who are not fully vaccinated will be allowed in if their country has a “good situation” with Covid cases.
This appears to be a crucial step forward for Britons under 40, who will have to wait until most of the summer to receive their second dose.
The EU’s list of so-called safe countries currently has only seven members and does not yet include the UK.
But it looks like Britain could now be on the list within weeks as part of plans to ease key thresholds, unveiled by the Commission.
Brussels officials recommend that countries with a 14-day case rate of less than 100, instead of 25, be allowed on the safe list. EU figures suggest the UK 14-day case rate is around 46 per 100,000 people.
EU member states are due to start discussing the proposals tomorrow – and sources have previously suggested travel to the EU could open in June.
But today’s announcement does not yet allow families to take a break from the beach – as travel will also be subject to UK rules.
The UK will have a traffic light system dividing countries into three categories – red, amber and green – for arrivals from overseas.
Only Britons returning from Green List countries would not have to self-isolate for 10 days upon arrival, and they will still need to take Covid tests.
The green list is expected to be widely disclosed this week, possibly Friday.
Boris Johnson confirmed today that the first holiday from the UK would be allowed “on” May 17 – after only saying before that it would be the earliest possible date.
He told reporters today: “We want to do an opening on May 17th. I don’t think the people of this country want to see an influx of disease from everywhere else. I certainly am not and we have to be very, very tough and as careful as possible as we continue to open up.
“I think there will be openings on the 17th but we have to be careful, we have to be reasonable, we have to make sure that we don’t see the virus coming back. “
Destinations such as Portugal, Malta, Iceland, Finland and Gibraltar have all been classified as “green list” countries.
But popular holiday destinations such as Spain and Green could initially be on Britain’s ‘orange list’, according to reports – alongside Denmark, Cyprus, Turkey, Italy and from Croatia.
Meanwhile, even the EU’s plans will still allow countries to block arrivals from certain countries using an ’emergency brake’.
It comes after MPs urged the government to “discourage all international pleasure travel” this summer to prevent the arrival of new variants.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the coronavirus has described airport arrival halls as “a breeding ground for infection.”
He advised passengers returning from green, orange and red countries under the new traffic light system not to mix.
APPG President Layla Moran told Times Radio: “Even in places that have had very high immunization levels – a position that we hope to achieve as well – they see the variant starting to undermine that effort.
“So our point of view is to encourage people to stay in the UK. The government should not add all of these countries to the list. Green means go, doesn’t it? So they make people enthusiastic about it.
“In fact, government messages should stay at home. Protect us. And let’s get to the point where the vast majority of the population is vaccinated and other countries have been vaccinated as well. “
Under EU vaccines rules, children should be able to travel with their vaccinated parents if they have a negative COVID-19 PCR test within 72 hours of arrival.
A boss of a travel company insisted that there had been “great progress” in countries like Portugal and Spain in preparing for the return of holidaymakers.
Thomas Cook chief executive Alan French has said he expects the most popular destinations, especially in Europe, to be open to British holidaymakers.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today show: ‘When the holidays start at the end of June, we expect most of the countries the UK to go on holiday to – in Europe in particular. – are open.
“We expect Portugal, Spain, Greece, Croatia, etc. be open, it would be nice if Turkey was open.
“When we look at what’s going on in these countries, both in terms of infection rates and how they’re preparing for vacationers, I think great strides are being made. “