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Coronavirus holidays: Britons gamble on foreign beach breaks before ‘green list’ update

Britons gambled on booking foreign beach breaks to Malta and the Balearic islands before changes to the UK’s ‘green list’ countries for quarantine-free travel were announced.

Ministers were under intense pressure to lift Covid travel restrictions to the Mediterranean destinations after scientists declared them safe.

And hopeful tourists took to social media over the past few days to reveal their plans for some summer sun abroad, with return flight prices as cheap as £21 for Malta and Ibiza and £26 to Mallorca over the next few months. 

Even last-minute holidays will not break the bank, with Saturday-Saturday returns from July 3 to July 10 available through price comparison website Skyscanner for £87 to Ibiza, £120 to Mallorca and £147 to Valletta.

And one British tourist from Manchester, @speckysi, tweeted: ‘It’s Russian roulette time again, I’ve now booked Malta for next week – there’s next to nothing cases and zero deaths. All I want is one week in the sun.’

Another, Tristan Dawson from Essex, tweeted that he had ‘just booked Mallorca’ and was ‘determined to have a holiday’ – while a third, Adam Courtney, said he had ‘gambled and booked’ a trip to Malta on Tuesday.

MALLORCA: Return flights are on sale to the Spanish island for just £26 from London this summer. El Arenal beach is pictured

MALTA: Flights to Valletta are available for just £21 return from London with WizzAir. Pretty Bay at Birzebbuga is pictured

MALTA: Flights to Valletta are available for just £21 return from London with WizzAir. Pretty Bay at Birzebbuga is pictured

IBIZA: Flights to Ibiza are still available for just £21 this summer, while returns from July 3 to July 10 are still a reasonable £87

IBIZA: Flights to Ibiza are still available for just £21 this summer, while returns from July 3 to July 10 are still a reasonable £87

Conservative MPs and travel industry figures said the decision on whether to expand the green list – which could come into force next Tuesday – is a vital test of the Government’s willingness to save the summer holidays.

Ministers will today decide whether to change the list of destinations where travel without self-isolation is allowed, and will also debate plans for quarantine-free travel to amber list countries for those who are fully vaccinated.

How much are flights to Malta, Ibiza and Mallorca before ‘green list’ update?

Here are the current prices via Skyscanner for leaving any London airport on Saturday, July 3 and returning a week later on Saturday, July 10, checked at 8am today:

Ibiza

  • £87 – July 3 0600 Jet2 Stansted / July 10 2140 Ryanair Stansted

Mallorca (Palma)

  • £120 – July 3 0600 Jet2 Stansted / July 10 1005 easyJet Luton

Menorca (Mahon)

  • £124 – July 3 1245 Jet2 Stansted / July 10 1700 Jet2 Stansted

Malta (Valletta)

  • £147 – July 3 1655 Ryanair Stansted / July 10 0715 MaltaAir Heathrow

And here are the cheapest return flights available for those four destinations on any dates this summer from London airports, according to Google Flights:

Ibiza

  • £21 – August 2 0605 WizzAir Gatwick / August 9 1045 WizzAir Gatwick

Mallorca (Palma)

  • £26 – July 21 1200 WizzAir Luton / July 28 1555 WizzAir Luton

Menorca (Mahon)

  • £85 – July 7 0730 Jet2 Stansted / July 14 1145 Jet2 Stansted

Malta (Valletta)

  • £21 – August 2 0605 WizzAir Gatwick / August 9 1045 WizzAir Gatwick

An ‘in principle’ decision could come as soon as today, but ministers are still wrangling over the start date. 

Whitehall sources told the Mail the Government’s Joint Biosecurity Centre has advised that Malta and the Balearic islands meet the criteria for safe travel.

This morning, Cabinet minister George Eustice said the Government would take a cautious approach to changes to travel restrictions.

The Environment Secretary told Sky News: ‘I want us to get back to a position where we can support those who want to travel to do so. 

‘Nobody likes the draconian restrictions we have had to put in place over this last year as we have wrestled with the pandemic.

‘So, yes, we want to get to a position where we can support people who want to travel to be able to do so, but it is difficult.

‘We are being cautious because the biggest threat still to our progress against this pandemic and the great progress we have made on vaccination is that there will be another variant somewhere that maybe hadn’t been properly detected in another country and that that variant is more resistant to vaccination.

‘That’s the great challenge that we have got, that’s why we are proceeding with caution.’

Mr Eustice also said Angela Merkel’s call for more European countries to impose restrictions on British tourists was unjustified.

The German chancellor told the Bundestag yesterday that she would like other countries to follow her lead in placing quarantine requirements on Britons.

And Mr Eustice told LBC radio: ‘Each country is taking their own decisions on this, so it will be for them to judge what approach they want to take.

‘I’m not sure that such an approach would be justified given the highly advanced stage we are currently at now in terms of vaccination, with 80 per cent having had one jab and now 60 per cent having had the second jab.

‘I don’t think such a move would be justified but obviously it’s for individual countries to make these judgments.’

Opening up the Balearics is seen as a game changer as more than five million Brits visit Mallorca, Ibiza and Menorca in a normal year. 

But there are fears that the Government could overrule the advice, as it did when Malta was put forward for approval last month. Sources last night said there was also a danger that Israel could be moved from green to amber.

Tory MP Henry Smith, chairman of the Future of Aviation Group, said: ‘Frankly, these destinations should already be on the green list along with many others.

‘It is a nonsense that people are not able to travel freely to countries that have lower rates of infection than we do.’ 

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, said: ‘It’s now or never if we are to have any sort of summer season and the data shows this can be done safely and proportionately with many more countries being added to the list.

‘The future of our aviation industry and the hundreds of thousands of jobs it supports depends on it.’ 

What is on Britain’s green list – and what could be added in latest review? 

The 11 countries currently on Britain’s green list:

  • Australia
  • Brunei
  • Falkland Islands
  • Faroe Islands
  • Gibraltar
  • Iceland
  • Israel
  • New Zealand
  • Singapore
  • South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands
  • St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha

Another 14 countries that could be added to the green list due to low case rates, according to the PC Agency:

  • Grenada
  • Barbados
  • Malta
  • Morocco
  • Poland
  • Finland
  • Jamaica
  • Mexico
  • Balearic Islands
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Canada
  • Croatia
  • USA

Culture minister John Whittingdale hinted at positive news yesterday, saying: ‘Hopefully it will be possible to increase that number’ of countries on the green list. 

Green list status is only allocated to destinations that can show they have low Covid rates and no significant problems with variants of concern. They also have to show that they can monitor for new variants.

Government scientists advised last month that Malta could be added to the green list, only to be overruled by ministers led by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

Latest figures suggest infection rates on the island are less than half those in the UK.

Asked about the prospect of restrictions being eased in the review, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: ‘Of course I very much hope the world could open up.

‘We’ve got to follow the data, and that’s what we’ll be doing in the meetings over the next few days.’

Ministers are also close to an agreement on the plan to end quarantine requirements for the fully vaccinated.

It is seen as the best chance for saving the travel sector this summer and would require travellers to prove their vaccination status either using the NHS app or with a paper record from their GP.

The Cabinet is split on the timing with some ministers favouring a July 9 start date and others wanting a more cautious approach.

A Government source said August is the most likely date but no final decision has been taken. 

It comes after the vaccines minister revealed almost half of all adults aged 25 to 29 in England and a third of those aged 18 to 24 had now received their first dose of a coronavirus jab.

People arriving in the UK from green list destinations are not required to self-isolate, but there are currently no viable major tourist destinations in that tier. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said earlier this week that the Government is ‘working on’ plans to allow quarantine-free travel for fully vaccinated Britons returning from amber locations.

It comes as the travel industry held a day of action yesterday to put pressure on the Government to reopen the sector and provide tailored financial support to businesses.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, Nadhim Zahawi said that more than 14,000 lives had been saved by the vaccination programme, while 44,500 hospital admissions had also been averted in England – 2,500 in the past two weeks.

IBIZA: This Google Flights graph shows how prices drop to as low as £21 for a seven-day return by the start of August

IBIZA: This Google Flights graph shows how prices drop to as low as £21 for a seven-day return by the start of August

MALLORCA: Flights to the island are available for just £26 if booking at the end of July, while there are also bargains in August

MALLORCA: Flights to the island are available for just £26 if booking at the end of July, while there are also bargains in August

MENORCA: The Balearic island is a little more expensive to visit, with the return flights this summer available for £85

MENORCA: The Balearic island is a little more expensive to visit, with the return flights this summer available for £85

MALTA: Flights to the island can be very cheap if booking in August, but you must pick dates carefully to get a bargain

MALTA: Flights to the island can be very cheap if booking in August, but you must pick dates carefully to get a bargain 

Referring to younger adults coming forward for their jab, the vaccines minister told a Downing Street press conference: ‘The enthusiasm is making a huge difference.

‘We have already given first doses to almost half of all 25 to 29-year-olds in England and only a week after the programme opened to all adults on Friday, one-third of people aged between 18 and 24 have had their first dose.

‘To all of the young people who have stepped up, I want to say a huge thank you. You have protected yourself, you have protected your families, and you have protected your communities.’

The minister added that he was ‘confident’ that 66 per cent of adults could have had two jabs by July 19, which has been earmarked for when all remaining Covid-19 restrictions in England could be lifted.

As of 9am yesterday, there had been a further 16,135 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK – the highest reported daily toll since February 6.


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