Holiday hopes boosted as UK confident more countries will join green list

An update on the UK's traffic light system for travel destinations is expected next Thursday.

Holidaymakers have been given a boost after the foreign secretary said he is increasingly confident more countries will soon be added to the UK's green list of travel destinations.

There are no restrictions on travelling to green list countries, which means people could go on holiday to those destinations without being vaccinated or having to quarantine.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab provided a glimmer of hope that popular destinations such as Spain could turn green when the traffic light system is reviewed next Thursday.

"We've done the job we had to do domestically [with Covid vaccines] and as we see other countries catch up if you like, I think we are increasingly confident that more countries will go either on amber or on to green," Mr Raab told Sky News.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said more countries will be added to the green list as they vaccinate more of their population.

"The system for which countries fall into which categories will be reviewed end of next week," Mr Shapps said, adding: "We look towards more countries as they become ready - become more vaccinated."

It comes after Great Britain opened its borders to travellers from Europe and the United States, meaning anyone who has received two Covid jabs can enter quarantine-free.

Flights booked from the US to UK soared in the hours following the announcement, with Virgin Atlantic reporting a week-on-week increase of 250% on certain routes.

The airline said it received more than three times as many bookings for flights from New York to London compared with a week earlier, while total bookings across all its US to UK routes more than doubled.

Virgin Atlantic chief commercial officer Juha Jarvinen said: "We know there's pent-up demand to travel and our surge in bookings for US-UK travel reflects this.

"The news that self-isolation for fully vaccinated US citizens arriving into the UK will be removed from August 2 has increased consumer confidence, allowing our customers to finally plan a much-needed reunion with family, friends and business colleagues.

"Flight bookings are up by more than 100% week-on-week, with bookings from New York to London increasing by nearly 250%, compared to the previous week."

The foreign secretary acknowledged that border relaxations could increase the risk that new, more dangerous coronavirus variants are imported to the UK, but said vaccines should protect the population.

Dominic Raab: 'We're very mindful of new variants...'

"We're very mindful of [foreign variants], which is why we're proceeding in surefooted steps," Mr Raab told ITV News.

"I think the assurance that we've got at this point is with 70% of the adult population double-jabbed - we're at an excellent stage, way ahead of any other country in the world in terms of the protection we provide at home."

He added that the UK will be able to open up "more rapidly" when other countries immunise their citizens will reliable vaccines.

Northern Ireland did not follow the rest of the UK in relaxing its border restrictions.

It was encouraging news for tourism and aviation businesses in the rest of the UK, which have been blighted by numerous lockdowns, but the benefit for potential travellers is likely to be negligible due to restrictions in the EU and US.

The United States, for example, has already announced that most European travellers, including those from the UK, will remain banned from entering the US due to coronavirus fears.

Britons who are US residents or citizens could benefit from the quarantine relaxations when entering England but they would have to quarantine when returning to America.

It's a similar situation in a number of European countries - those arriving in Italy from the UK are subject to a five day period of quarantine, whether or not they have been vaccinated.

But Mr Raab told ITV News he believes the government's relaxation of border restrictions will soon be replicated for British travellers abroad.

"Travellers coming from the US or EU, if they've had properly licenced two jabs vaccines can come to this country - the majority of those countries in the EU are reciprocal.

"We hope of course in the future that the arrangements with the US will be reciprocal."

He added: "I'm sure there'll be more conversations in the weeks ahead."

While many nations have restrictions on British travellers there are dozens around the world which do not and tourism firms there will be hoping their country will be added to the UK's green list.

When will other countries open up to the UK?

Among those countries are popular destinations such as Turkey, Spain and Greece - all require proof of a negative coronavirus test taken before travelling.

Mr Raab told ITV News a bid by the UK and other G7 nations to provide poorer countries with vaccines should help open up international travel.

"We know its in our moral interests to do this, particularly for the most culnerable countries around the world.

"But its also in the British national interest so that we don't find ourselves suffering further waves, so we can open up international travel, whether its for business or whether it's for holiday destinations."