Holidays 2021 Q&A: ITV News answers your travel questions as Portugal is taken off the green list

Credit: PA

ITV News has answered your questions on the changing travel situation after the government confirmed Portugal is to be taken off England's green list.

On Thursday, transport secretary Grant Shapps also revealed that no new destinations will be added to the green list.Following the announcement, Consumer Editor Chris Choi, Consumer Producer Hannah Kings and Which? Travel Editor Rory Boland responded to the queries you sent us.

  • USA

Adam Lawrence via Twitter: There’s no mention anywhere of what’s happening with the USA. Can we expect the US border to be re-opened any time soon and when is it likely to move off our amber list?

Chris Choi: It’s a big question involving some big travel figures. For UK visitors, the USA is the biggest destination outside Europe with just under four million a year. But right now, the Foreign Office is advising against all but essential travel to the USA. Since March 2020 the USA has not been allowing visitors from the UK and very many other countries. The big issues for getting on the green list are vaccination rates, infection levels and Covid variants. The number of vaccinations given in the states has tripled in recent months. Some figures in the industry say there could be an air corridor for unrestricted travel between the UK and USA by the end of this month and there has been press speculation that Boris Johnson could raise the issue with the US president at the G7 summit happening later this month. However, it is not yet known when you can visit the USA for holidays or business - the current travel ban for entry into the States is in place for an indefinite time. Keep an eye on the Foreign Office travel advice pages for updates. Incidentally, you can sign up for email updates on the travel advice website.

  • Spain

Paul Grant via Facebook: Will certain parts of Spain be moved onto the green list? Chris Choi: Spain constantly tops the most visited list for UK holidaymakers - with up to 18 million trips a year. Spain opened its borders for visitors from the UK without the need for a PCR test at the end of May (“without restrictions and without health requirements” said the Spanish PM). However, the Foreign Office currently advises against all but essential travel and the country remains on the amber list. Amber list countries require 10 days isolation on your return as well as three Covid tests. The better news is that infections are decreasing in Spain and it’s estimated around 29% of the public there is fully vaccinated. Last month, it lifted its state of emergency and some of its restrictions are easing. The UK government will consider moving islands onto the green list, which means lower infection rates in the Balearics and Canaries could open up travel there before the mainland. Already, the Canary Islands are excluded from the Foreign Office advice against travel based on its assessment of Covid Risks. This is cited by many in the travel trade as an example of confusion and complexity in the current “traffic light system”. This week the head of Ryanair predicted travel to Spain will be opened up by the end of June. The UK government will be making a further update around June 24 so all eyes will be on that. Claire Mackie via Twitter: I can’t wait to see my house in Spain Chris Choi: People who own property and need to visit in connection with purchase, ownership or sale had a “reasonable excuse” for foreign travel even when tighter restrictions were in force prior to May 17. This became known in the press as the 'Stanley Johnson loophole' after the PM’s father visited his overseas property. Now owners can visit but will still have to isolate for 10 days and take the necessary Covid tests on return - leaving them no better off than any other visitor from the UK.

  • Popular island holiday destinations

Anna Markides and Samantha Jones on Facebook said they’d love to visit Cyprus to visit their respective families, but feel like there’s little mention of travel there, given the sizable expat community. They asked what prospects there are of flying to Cyprus. Rose Davey: I have a holiday to Lanzarote booked for August 26 (brought forward from last year) and I'm not sure whether it’ll be possible to get there Hannah Kings: Cyprus, the Greek Islands and the Canary Islands are all currently on the UK’s amber list – meaning that the government here is advising against travelling there. The green, amber and red lists are reviewed every three weeks so the next update will be expected in late June. Countries are assessed based on factors including their Covid-19 infection rates at the time.

If you do need to travel to an amber list country, you’ll need to take a Covid-19 test before departing that country and self-isolate for ten days after you arrive back in the UK. You’ll also need to take Covid-19 tests on days two and eight after your arrival in the UK.

There is an option to ‘test-to-release’ on day five after returning from an amber list country – which involves paying to take a Covid-19 test on the fifth day after you arrive in the UK.

Corfu Credit: Pexels

Sarah Simpson: Will all the Greek islands be accessible if you’ve had the two jabs?

Hannah Kings: If you’re arriving into Greece from the UK and can provide proof that you have completed a course of Covid-19 vaccination at least 14 days before travel, you will be permitted to enter, and will not be required to self-isolate when you arrive. A "complete course" of vaccination means both doses of a vaccine – if two are needed.

Passengers who can provide proof of a negative Covid-19 PCR test within 72 hours of arriving in Greece will also be exempt from any need to self-isolate – even if they have not been vaccinated. Remember though, Greece is still on the UK’s amber list, so you will need to take a Covid-19 test before you leave Greece, then isolate and take two more Covid-19 tests after you arrive back in the UK. This applies whether or not you have been vaccinated.

  • Vaccine passports

Sarah Field via Facebook: What about vaccine passports for travel? I feel the UK’s falling behind the US and EU on this. Hannah Kings: The UK does not currently accept proof of vaccination as an exemption from the need to test – or in the case of amber and red countries – self-isolate, when you return. It’s correct that some countries do accept proof of a completed course of vaccination as an exemption from entry restrictions, but remember that the UK’s testing and isolation rules will still apply when you return.

For more Covid news and information, listen to the ITV News coronavirus podcast

Phil via Twitter: Will travellers face testing if they’ve had two vaccinations? Hannah Kings: At the moment, before entering the UK from abroad, all passengers are required to provide proof of one negative coronavirus test before leaving for the UK, and at least one more negative test taken after they arrive. No UK nation currently accepts proof of vaccination as an alternative to this testing – regardless of whether they categorise the country the passenger has come from as green, amber or red. Entry requirements for passengers coming from within the Common Travel Area (the UK, the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands) are slightly different, but vary depending on which UK nation you are entering, so it’s always worth checking the rules for the country you’re travelling to.

  • Cancellations and refunds

Tony Hug via Twitter: Just had to pay the remaining balance of £3,500 on a family holiday to Turkey (booked last year to go this August). If we didn’t pay the balance we would lose our £1,200 deposit. We don’t even want to go but only way of getting refund is if Turkey stays on red list. If they move to the amber list, we will reluctantly go to not to lose our money. We asked TUI to cancel and refund but they refused because the government still allow flights to amber countries.

Rory Boland: Frustratingly, there is no automatic right to a refund when a country is on the amber list, even though the government advises against travel to amber destinations. Airlines and most tour operators continue to send holidaymakers to some countries on the amber list. More crucial is the Foreign Office advice - currently the FCDO advises against non-essential travel to Turkey, as it does for most but not all amber countries and destinations. The FCDO warning does trigger a refund for package holidays - but tour operators typically won’t cancel until three to four weeks before departure. Keep an eye on this as your departure date gets closer.

Rebecca Rive: Shall I cancel Dominican Republic for August and book Spain for then instead?

Rory Boland: Don’t cancel your holiday unless your tour operator has a policy that allows for this - most don’t. If you cancel now, you will likely lose your right to a refund. The best advice is to wait - maybe your Dominican Republic holiday will be able to go ahead in August. If not, and the FCDO warning against travel to the DR is still in place, your tour operator will cancel three to four weeks ahead of time and issue you with a refund.

Alternatively, if you definitely don’t want to go, check the terms and conditions of your provider's flexible booking policy - some allow destination and date changes, although you may need to pay more.

  • Testing

Sally Jones: Do you need a test to fly out, a test to fly home and then one more when you get back? Rory Boland: The UK government requires everyone to take a test before coming home and one test on return (from a green country) or two (from an amber country). Whether you need a test to fly out is down to the country you are travelling to, and in some cases based on your vaccination status. Some countries require tests, others don’t - there are also varying rules for children. The FCDO is a good source of information on which tests are required, or ask your travel agent/tour operator.

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