On 6 July, 111 days after the Foreign Office warned against foreign travel, British holidaymakers will once again be able to go abroad.
For millions of travellers, the brakes will be off – and many countries are eager to welcome UK holidaymakers, despite the relatively high prevalence of Covid-19.
The move coincides with the start of the main holiday season in Europe, and the easing of international travel restrictions across the continent.
From 6 July, the government’s current “no holiday” policy is to be relaxed for visits to some nations where the risk of contracting coronavirus is regarded as low.
Countries deemed by the Joint Biosecurity Centre to be handling the pandemic well, with low and declining rates of infection, will be given either amber or green status.
This status will allow returning travellers, and inbound tourists to the UK, to avoid the need to self-isolate for 14 days.
Amber status indicates nations where there is some risk of quarantine being re-introduced in the event of a rise in Covid-19 cases.
“Green” countries are those where the rates are so low that renewed quarantine status is highly unlikely.
The FCO will simultaneously lift its warning to the chosen nations.
The list of favoured countries will be revealed by Wednesday, 1 July.
For everywhere rated red, the current “no-go” rules will continue to apply.
Where can I go?
Spain and France, by far the most popular destinations for British holidaymakers, are known to have qualified.
Italy is also almost certain to be granted amber status, allowing visits.
While travel to Greece will also be given the go-ahead, the nation’s tourism minister has indicated that British visitors may not immediately be welcome.
Ireland has special status as the one foreign country from which visitors are currently not subject to UK quarantine, and will be included.
Leaked lists of other qualifying nations are circulating in the travel industry, but many of them are contradictory.
The Independent has conducted its own assessment using published data on prevalence and trajectory, and believes an 18 additional EU countries may be included according to the government’s criteria:
They are: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.
Portugal has seen a recent increase in cases, with lockdown reintroduced in some parts of Lisbon. But the country is lobbying strongly to be included, on the grounds that rates in the key destinations of the Algarve and Madeira are in overall decline.
The most popular non-EU destination is Turkey, which in the past two weeks has seen a slight resurgence of cases – but again, diplomatic pressure is intense to give travel to the country the go-ahead.
Switzerland and Norway should certainly qualify for the “safe” list.
Where can’t I go?
That is much easier to determine. In Europe, Sweden looks sure to get a red rating, with a high and increasing number of infections. Bulgaria and Romania are seeing fresh spikes of cases.
Topping the popular long-haul destinations on the no-go list is the US. This week Britain’s biggest holiday company, Tui, cancelled all departures to Florida until December.
Mexico and many other Latin American nations are a long way from being approved.
Among Gulf locations, Qatar will rate red. The UAE, including Dubai, may well get the same classification due to a recent rise in cases.
What are my rights if I have a trip booked to a ‘banned’ country?
Neither of the big two package-holiday firms, Jet2 and Tui, will take you somewhere if either the Foreign Office warns against travel or there is a need to self-isolate when you return.
Smaller tour operators are likely to follow suit. Customers will be due full refunds.
Travellers who have booked flights, accommodation and other elements separately are in a trickier position.
There is every chance that the flight will still be operating: government advice does not need to be followed by airlines.
If the plane does depart the airline is legally entitled to refuse a refund even though you have compelling reasons not to go – such as work or family commitments.
Hoteliers, car-rental firms and other providers can also stick to their terms and conditions.
What if I am going to several countries, and one or more is red?
The Independent understands that you will be expected to report the fact, and go into self-isolation for 14 days upon your return.
At present the passenger locator form that all inbound travellers are required to complete does not have a field where this information can be provided.
I’ve heard prices are down 70 per cent. Where are the best bargains?
Assurances of deep discounts are generally dubious in travel, because prices fluctuate continually.
For a more objective approach The Independent has compared today’s prices with last Monday’s on an identical range of one-week package trips in July and August for a family of four.
Two are the same price as five days ago; two are slightly cheaper; and one is sharply more expensive.
Prices are per person; baggage and transfers extra unless indicated.
Mallorca, departing from Liverpool (Ryanair) on 15 July, staying at the TRH Jardin del Mar in Santa Ponsa, with On The Beach: £153. No change.
Bulgaria, departing from Doncaster Sheffield on 16 July, staying at Apartments Bravo in Sunny Beach, with Balkan Holidays, including baggage and transfers: £283. No change.
Note that The Independent believes Bulgaria may be on the no-go list.
Algarve, departing from Newquay (Ryanair) on 18 July, staying at Studio 17 in Portimao, with Travel Republic: £160. Down 12 per cent.
Turkey, departing from Glasgow on 5 August, staying at the Melissa Gardens in Side, with Jet2 Holidays including transfers and 23kg luggage: £238. Down 2 per cent.
Malta, departing from Gatwick on 26 August, staying at the Bayview Hotel, with breakfast and checked baggage included: £428. Up 79 per cent.
Two August holidays to Spain were no longer available because the operators had cancelled them during the week: easyJet from Gatwick to Valencia and Tui from Belfast to Salou.
Will I still be able to get travel insurance that covers me for Covid-19?
Many insurers have introduced a clause excluding coronavirus claims; travellers in the EU with an European Health Insurance Card (Ehic) will be able to get medical treatment in local hospitals if they become symptomatic.
Some companies, including Staysure, Saga and Trailfinders, are selling policies that cover coronavirus.
Those who took out travel policies before the coronavirus pandemic began will find it will operate as normal once it is deemed safe to travel to the country concerned.
But no insurer is likely to cover cancellations because the customer does not want to travel because of quarantine requirements back in the UK.
Will it be a problem if I leave now and return after quarantine is lifted?
Some travellers have taken the government’s announcement as a green light to book trips to leave in the next few days. The prevailing Foreign Office “no-go” advice means those holidaymakers will find that their travel insurance is void.
What will the journey be like?
Potentially uncomfortable and certainly austere. The government says: “Airports, ports and Eurotunnel have worked hard to put in place Covid-secure requirements to keep those travelling as safe as possible.
“All passengers will be required by law to wear face coverings on planes and ferries to protect others.”
The same applies to Eurostar trains from London to Brussels and Paris.
While there is no need to arrive any earlier than normal, the airport experience is far from fun. Almost all shops and restaurants are closed at airports across the UK, though some may open up as passenger numbers increase with holiday travel permitted.
While social distancing is practised as much as possible within airports, and boarding of planes is carried out more systematically to reduce mingling, once on the aircraft you are likely to be in very close proximity to strangers.
Some people who have studiously observed social distancing may not be comfortable with this, however effective the air-conditioning and filters on board the plane.
Different forms of transport have their own benefits and risks. A nonstop flight from, say, Manchester to Malaga is likely to offer a far lower chance of contracting the virus than making the same journey in a series of trains.
Driving – particularly with a Channel crossing on Eurotunnel, where motorists stay in their cars – lowers the risk of infection, but harm in an accident is much more likely than by air or rail.
Will the holiday experience be very different?
In some respects. All-inclusive properties will be most affected by the measures imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic, with serve-yourself buffets suspended and strict rules on the use of swimming pools.
On the beach, social distancing will be directed and policed.
Many bars and restaurants have been ordered to cut capacity to maintain social distancing – though with no more than half the usual number of holidaymakers expected at many European resorts, this may not be a problem.
Nightclubs are likely to remain closed, and excursions will either not operate or be capacity-restricted.
Demand for villas appears to be soaring, as families can effectively transfer their households to a new location.
Caravanning and camping may also be more popular.
What happens if quarantine is re-imposed while I am away?
That is a potential risk, especially for locations in the “amber” category. The government says: “We will not hesitate to put on the brakes if any risks re-emerge, and this system will enable us to take swift action to re-introduce self-isolation measures if new outbreaks occur overseas.”
Holidaymakers abroad at the time will have no choice but to quarantine on their return home, however inconvenient or expensive that may be. It is not an insurable risk.
Travellers who are quarantining at home in the UK may learn that the isolation requirement has been lifted for the country they visited earlier. They will, however, be required to complete the full 14 days of quarantine.