Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned the government will have “no hesitation” in removing countries from the travel green list if necessary.
The warning comes ahead of the next travel update, with ministers expected to update the traffic light system on Thursday (3 June).
‘Extremely limited changes’
The travel update could see countries change status between green, amber and red, based on their Covid-19 risk.
Currently there are only 12 countries on the green list, including Portugal, Gibraltar, Iceland, Australia and New Zealand, with travellers able to visit these destinations without having to quarantine on their return to the UK.
Travellers returning from amber list locations – which includes popular hotspots such as Spain, France, Italy and Greece – must quarantine at home for 10 days and take two post-arrival tests, while there is a travel ban to red list countries.
It is expected that any changes to the green list will be “extremely limited”, with predictions that the list of countries holidaymakers can visit without quarantine on return to the UK will remain very restricted until August.
There are hopes some of the Greek islands will be added to the green list, as well as Grenada, Antigua, Malta and Finland.
Mr Johnson said the government will “wait and see” what the recommendations are from the Joint Biosecurity Centre before making an announcement, but warned the approach will be cautious.
Speaking ahead of today’s review, Mr Johnson said: “I want you to know we will have no hesitation in moving countries from the green list to the amber list to the red list, if we have to do so.
“We are going to try and allow people to travel as I know many people want to, but we’ve got to be cautious.
“We’ve got to continue to put countries on the red list, on the amber list, when that is necessary.
“We will have no hesitation in moving countries from the green list to the amber list to the red list if we have to do so.
“The priority is to continue the vaccine rollout to protect the people of this country.”
Portugal at risk of losing green status
Portugal is thought to be at risk of losing its green list status amid concerns of a new strain of Covid-19 which is thought to have originated in Nepal.
The mutation, dubbed the ‘Nepal variant’, is reported to have spread into some European countries and could jeopardise the easing of travel restrictions in the affected areas.
There are fears that Portugal could be stripped of its green list travel status after scientists alerted ministers to the ‘Nepal variant’, the Mail Online reports.
Scientists from the Joint Biosecurity Centre are reportedly concerned about rising infection rates and the emergence of mutations in the holiday hotspot.
However, a member of the government’s SAGE committee said officials should not be overly concerned about the variant just yet, stating: “There are thousands of variants. This is a virus that is changing all the time."
Tory peer Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith, chairman of the Airport Operators' Association, told the publication: "How many more variants have we got to be worried about?
"What matters is data and the success of our vaccination programme."
Despite concerns over the new Nepal variant, Mr Johnson has insisted there is “nothing in the data at the moment” to prevent ending domestic Covid-19 restrictions in England as planned on 21 June.