Which countries are on the green list? Where you can go on holiday without quarantining

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  • Which countries are on the government’s green list has become the focus of attention recently, as travel opens up this summer.

    The latest recent step on the government’s lockdown roadmap was taken on May 17  and it brought good news for British holidaymakers seeking sea, sun and sand. The government announced that certain countries would be added to an approved ‘green list’.

    Holiday destinations on this list are not subject to quarantine upon return. This is unlike the government’s ‘red list’ or amber list, which asks travellers of certain countries to quarantine for 10 days in a hotel at a personal cost of almost £2000. The green list, however, may change and since the most recent review, one country has been removed from the list. 

    Which countries are on the green list?

    On Friday May 7, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced the countries on the UK’s green list which Brits can now travel to following a restrictions lift on May 17. They are:

    • Israel and Jerusalem
    • Singapore
    • Australia
    • New Zealand
    • Brunei
    • Iceland
    • Gibraltar
    • Falkland Islands
    • Faroe Islands
    • South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
    • St Helena, Tristan de Cunha, Ascension Island

    Those travelling to these countries will have to take a pre-departure test and a second PCR test two days after they return to the UK, but they will not have to quarantine at all. Travellers will also have to continue wearing face coverings as social distancing regulations haven’t changed yet.

    Green list countries will be reviewed frequently in light of new Covid-19 variants – such as the Delta variant now found in the UK – and the current local lockdown measures, to check their position on the list is still suitable. The Transport Secretary said, “Green list countries will be placed on the watch list if there is an up-swing in infections.”

    He explained that returning from these countries to the UK comes with conditions, but the destination countries themselves will also have conditions for travellers arriving. So, “if you’re booking a holiday in a green list country, check that country’s restrictions” and be certain that your holiday is refundable, in case the Covid-19 situation changes.

    Speaking in May, Mr Shapps said, “The only route out of this pandemic is a careful, prudent and responsible one. But we’re also as a nation, a group of people who thrive on travel. A nation with family ties across the globe.

    “I’m glad to be standing here today to announce the first, albeit tentative, steps towards unlocking international travel. We want a summer in which, which the help of vaccines and testing, we can reunite with family and friends. Travel to places we love. We want to start looking outward again. Whilst Covid has isolated us, travel reunites us.”

    He added that there was “simply no substitute for human contact’ but linking with other countries needed to be done with “safe and secure surveillance”. This is to ensure that any “dangerous variants” don’t make their way into the country.

    Man travelling with a suitcase as green list is announced

    Credit: Getty

    “I have to be absolutely straight with you.” The Transport Secretary said, “Our success in combatting Covid here is not yet replicated in many places abroad.”

    Although official ‘vaccine passports‘ are still being considered by the UK government, Mr Shapps has said that those who have been fully vaccinated will be able to show their Covid status on the NHS app from May 17 as well. Those without the app can request a letter to verify their vaccination status. This will be essential, as some countries will allow fully vaccinated people to visit without testing or quarantine.

    Cyprus is one of the countries offering this. The list already includes popular holiday destinations such as Greece, Spain and France. However, according to some experts, many countries in Europe will be on the UK’s amber list. This means travellers will have to quarantine on their return back to the UK.   

    When is the next green list update?

    The green list will be updated every 3 weeks, according to the UK government website.

    “The risk posed by individual countries will be continuously monitored and the green, amber and red lists will be updated every 3 weeks,” reads their statement on international travel.

    “The Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) will produce risk assessments of countries and territories. Decisions will be taken by ministers, who take into account the JBC risk assessments, alongside wider public health factors.”

    Factors that will determine whether a country is on the green, amber or red list is based on the overall transmission risk plus any new COVID-19 variants.


    What is the amber list?

    As well as the green list and red list, there is also an amber list. These are countries which the government explicitly states that Brits should not travel unless essential.

    Anyone returning from a country on the amber list will have to take PCR tests on their return. They also have to quarantine for ten days in from their own homes. 

    On Monday 17 May, the government announced the amber list, consisting of 171 countries. Popular holiday destinations included Spain, Italy, France and the USA.

    A close-up of a face-mask, boarding pass and suitcase

    Credit: Getty

    Amber-list countries will be reviewed on the same factors as the green list: low cases, few emerging variants, high vaccine rates and genomic testing. A change in circumstances may then see these amber-list countries moved to the green list.

    Although European countries are aiming to speed up their vaccine rollouts, only two countries have actually vaccinated more than half of their population. This is why these countries appear on the amber list.

    If the UK goes back into a lockdown again or takes on temporary restrictions, like a circuit breaker lockdown, the countries on the list are likely to change again.

    To achieve herd immunity, 70% of people have to have had the vaccine.