EU set to ease travel restrictions but PM warns: Don't visit 'amber list' countries

19 May 2021, 13:45

By Asher McShane

The European Union has taken a step towards relaxing tourism travel for visitors from outside the bloc, with EU ambassadors agreeing on measures to allow fully vaccinated visitors in.

They also agreed on easing the criteria for nations to be considered a safe country, from which all tourists can travel. Up to now, that list included only seven nations.

But the plans sparked confusion with Boris Johnson telling MPs today that people should not travel to countries on the 'amber list,' many of which are popular European holiday destinations.

The EU imposed strict measures last year to contain Covid-19 outbreaks but the bloc's 27 ambassadors now say many of those restrictions on non-essential travel should be eased.

Specifically, tourists from outside the bloc who have been fully vaccinated should be allowed in.

Mr Johnson told the Commons: "You should not be going to an amber list country on holiday.

"If you travel to an amber list country for any emergency, any extreme reason that you have to, when you come back, you not only have to pay for all the tests but you have to self-isolate for 10 days - we will invigilate, we are invigilating it, and people who fail to obey the quarantine can face fines of up to £10,000".

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Passengers on a flight to the 'green list' country of Portugal
Passengers on a flight to the 'green list' country of Portugal. Picture: PA

A large number of countries are on the ‘amber list’ including popular short haul destinations like: Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Croatia, Cyprus, Germany, Austria, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

But TUI and Thomas Cook were just two firms offering package holidays to islands in Greece and Spain, saying they are following government advice.

GOV.uk currently advises against all but essential travel to Greece, except for the islands of Rhodes, Kos, Zakynthos, Corfu and Crete, based on the current assessment of COVID-19 risks.

The EU "Council will recommend that member states ease some of the current restrictions" for those who have been vaccinated, said EU Commission spokesman Christian Wigand.

"The council should also soon expand the list of non-EU countries with a good epidemiological situation from where travel is permitted," said Mr Wigand.

The EU's European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control is to give advice on the list.

EU nations have been struggling throughout the pandemic to prop up their vital tourism industry and hope to recover some income over the peak summer season.