The government has just announced its green list for quarantine-free international travel into England. The countries on it are Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, the Falkland Islands, Israel, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, and Portugal, including the Azores and Madeira.
Here are profiles for some of the countries on the list:
Proportion of country vaccinated against Covid: 0.6%
Daily cases as of 5 May: 13 per million
Life has been largely normal for Australians for most of the last year thanks to an effective Covid-19 response, largely bolstered by extremely harsh border restrictions and zero tolerance for risk.
There is a mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine in place for all arrivals, which severely limits the numbers arriving, as well as a negative test taken within the last 72 hours. Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne and parts of Sydney have all experienced snap lockdowns after single-digit cases of community transmission. To enter the country, people must have a valid visa, and Australian citizens and returning permanent residents and their immediate family members are permitted to enter Australia without an exemption.
But there is no end in sight for the strict border controls; the Antipodean nation will remain closed to the majority of international arrivals until 2022, its government said on Thursday, citing uncertainty around the country’s vaccine rollout and Covid variants.
Proportion of country vaccinated against Covid: 4.5% – 1.8% fully vaccinated
Daily cases as of 5 May: 3
Like Australia, New Zealand successfully controlled the spread of Covid-19 by shutting its borders early, introducing mandatory self-isolation for all returnees, and acting quickly to stamp out occasional small outbreaks. It has been held up as an example to other countries. Travellers are required to have confirmation of a negative Covid-19 PCR test result in the 72 hours prior to departure and to undergo quarantine or managed isolation in an approved facility for at least 14 days. But the country remains closed to almost all arrivals. Less than three weeks after launching a travel bubble with Australia, the quarantine-free arrangement was paused after the detection of coronavirus cases in Sydney.
Proportion of country vaccinated against Covid: 2.4%
Daily cases as of 5 May: 1
The nation has been relatively untouched by the pandemic. While its vaccination programme has reached only a tiny proportion of its population, it has confirmed only 229 cases in total since last January, according to World Health Organization data, and only three deaths; all of which occurred last year. It has strict travel restrictions, requiring a permit from the prime minister’s office at least eight days in advance. The country also demands a negative result on arrival from a test taken within 72 hours. Travelling from Brunei is also the object of severe restrictions, including permanent residents, requiring special dispensation from the prime minister’s office.
Proportion of country vaccinated against Covid: 39%
Daily cases as of 5 May: 17
Singapore has confirmed more than 60,000 cases since the pandemic began but most of those were seen early on. Its worst spell was last April; since August 2020, weekly caseloads have been measured in the hundreds – and even in the double digits in many of the weeks since then. In all, 31 people have died – one each in March and April – but Singapore suffered no deaths between late November and then. Similarly, most of the deaths were last spring. Masks are compulsory outside the house and people not complying with the government’s Covid measures face fines, while foreign nationals face deportation.
Proportion of country vaccinated against Covid: 30.2%, 13% fully vaccinated
Daily cases as of 5 May: 3
All UK residents need a special worthy purpose to enter the Faroe Islands, in line with the Danish governments strict requirements. Travellers to the archipelago are advised to take a test up to 72 hours before departure. All travellers, other than children under-12, will be tested upon arrival at the border and a follow up test on the sixth day of the visit is strongly recommended, at the cost of approximately DKK 312-390 (£36-£45) per test. All travellers should self-isolate until they have received the result of the follow-up test. Vaccinated travellers, who have completed their vaccination at least eight days prior to their journey, and previously infected travellers, whose positive test is more than 10 days old, are not required to self-isolate. Vaccinated travellers must still test on arrival and take a follow-up test on the fourth day afterwards.
Proportion of country vaccinated: 60%, fully vaccinated 55%
Daily cases as of 5 May: 7.33 per million
Israel has said it will open to tourists from 23 May, with all visitors being required to undergo a PCR test before boarding a flight to the country, and a serological (antibody) test to prove their vaccination upon arrival if agreement has not been reached for a vaccine certificate. It has also formed a travel bubble with Greece and Cyprus.
Israel began easing restrictions on 7 March from its third lockdown, with the reopening of restaurants, cafes, event venues, attractions, shops and malls for everyone. Gyms, swimming pools, hotels, indoor dining and drinking and some cultural facilities are open to those with green passes (an app showing full inoculation).
The country’s management of Covid-19, along with the world’s fastest vaccination campaign, means it can be considered one of the safest destinations to visit this summer in terms of the pandemic. About 4.5 million tourists visited Israel in 2019, taking in the historic sites of Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, the Negev desert, the Red Sea resort of Eilat, and the hip Tel Aviv-Jaffa area with its cool coastal lifestyle revolving around 16 beaches.
Proportion of country vaccinated: 30%, fully vaccinated 10%
Daily cases as of 5 May: 17.16 per million
Iceland announced that from 18 March, anyone vaccinated against Covid-19 would be allowed to travel into the country without being subject to a PCR test before travel or quarantine. The Icelandic government has confirmed that the UK NHS vaccination card will be accepted as proof of vaccination until such time as the UK has a suitable digital alternative. Upon arrival, visitors will have to take a Covid test that is free of charge. They will then be allowed to make their way to their first night’s accommodation, where they will be asked to limit contact with others until their test results are received, which should be within 24 hours and usually within about six hours.
Masks are mandatory in shops and on public transport. Gyms and swimming pools are operating at 50% capacity, with bars and nightclubs open until 9pm. These regulations will remain in effect until 13 May. The government is expected next week to set out its roadmap for easing restrictions further, with a greater number of people being allowed to gather by the end of May while observing a 1-metre social distancing rule, leading to no restrictions by the end of June, subject to the vaccination rollout.
Visitor numbers had rocketed over recent years – the 2010 volcanic eruption reminded the world of the country’s wild beauty, as did films such as Star Wars and TV series including Game of Thrones. From the Vatnajökull glacier to the Krafla volcano, it is the perfect stand-in whenever a vast, otherworldly set is required. And, while Reykjavík’s cool hangouts and the “golden circle” route of Thingvellir national park, the Geysir geothermal area and Gullfoss waterfall were inundated by tourists pre-pandemic, it remains a country where wilderness is easy to find.
British overseas territories
Operation Freedom, the name given to Gibraltar’s vaccination programme, made it the first place in the world where every willing resident over the age of 16 had been fully vaccinated, securing its berth on the green list. Daily life has returned almost completely to a pre-pandemic situation – on 8 April, the government announced that most lockdown restrictions had been lifted owing to very low rates of active cases. Bars and restaurants reopened with no requirement for face masks and no limit on the number of people permitted at a table. But masks must be worn in shops and on public transport.
The British overseas territory on Spain’s south coast has long laboured under the weight of its reputation to deliver full English breakfasts, fish and chips and pints of London Pride on tap. But it also enjoys a Mediterranean climate and, on a clear day, can deliver views of the Rif mountains in Morocco across the strait of Gibraltar. Most visitors head straight to the Rock for the views and macaque monkeys, or to the bars on Main Street. But more interesting is Catalan Bay – known locally as La Caleta – a quaint fishing village on the eastern side first populated by Genoese fishers in the 18th century. Its golden sands, pastel-coloured houses and seafood restaurants are a world away from the stereotype of little England in the sun. New routes to Gibraltar this summer include Wizz Air from Luton, Eastern Airways from Birmingham and Southampton, and British Airways from London City.
When Grant Shapps said the government wanted to plot a cautious reopening of travel, few would have expected him to add the British overseas territories of the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, and Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha to the green list. Except perhaps Home Secretary Priti Patel who mooted sending asylum seekers to Ascension Island, an isolated volcanic British territory in the South Pacific, and St Helena, which is part of the same island group but 800 miles away. These are among the most isolated islands on the planet, with St Helena lying 1,210 miles off the west coast of Africa. A connecting flight to St Helena from Cape Town only started in 2019. The island’s nearest neighbours are 1,500 miles away to the south in Tristan da Cunha, and beyond that is Antarctica.
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands are only accessible by sea. There is no visitor accommodation ashore. South Georgia and the Falklands are usually included in premium bucket-list wildlife and birding cruises to Antarctica, where the stars of the show are icebergs and king penguins rather than people. A 21-day Spirit of Shackleton cruise with G Adventures costs from £12,899.
Proportion of country vaccinated: 26%, fully vaccinated 9%
Daily cases as of 5 May: 35.57 per million
Portugal has said it will open to UK tourists as soon as they are allowed to travel. On 5 May the tourism minister, Rita Marques, told BBC Breakfast entry requirements would be “as simple as possible” with visitors proving they have had the vaccine, have immunisation or a negative (PCR) test. “We are working to have an agile process, in order to make a seamless experience,” she said.
For those travelling to the Azores a PCR test before departure is mandatory and, if the stay is longer than seven days, a second test is required on the sixth and 12th day.
For arrivals to Madeira a PCR test 72 hours before travel is required. The regional government has said anyone who has recovered from Covid-19 in the previous 90 days, or has had both doses of the vaccine at least 15 days prior to travel, will be exempt.
Portugal entered its fourth phase of easing restrictions on 1 May in most of the country (a few municipalities are still under tighter restrictions). Shops are open, and restaurants and cafes will be open until 10.30pm. Bars are still closed. Masks must be worn indoors and outside. Measures are being reviewed fortnightly.
In the past decade Portugal has gone from primarily being known for package holidays on the Algarve and golf to being named Europe’s leading destination. While the south coast offers gentle sloping beaches, the north is renowned as a surfers’ paradise, dotted with guesthouses and schools. It is a popular hiking destination in spring when wildflowers are in bloom, and is gaining a reputation for affordable yoga and wellbeing retreats. Inland from the 530 miles of coastline are forested mountains, Unesco cities, vineyards, a growing number of eco-hotels, and river beaches. Lisbon and Porto were beginning to suffer from overtourism – 2021 could be the year to visit before the crowds return.