The government has finally said Brits will be able to book holidays abroad this summer – as a green list of countries is unveiled within three weeks.
Foreign travel will definitely be allowed to resume, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed as he published a review on trips abroad.
A “traffic light” system will divide nations into red, amber and green lists allowing different levels of travel, with testing and quarantine.
There will also be a fourth category, a green “watchlist”, to alert travellers to countries that are at highest risk of moving from green to amber.
But there are a string of uncertainties that could add cost and paperwork for families hoping for a taste of sun.
Firstly, families are still in limbo as officials say it is too early to say which countries will be on which lists.
Secondly, there is still no start date for foreign holidays – as Mr Shapps said they might begin from May 17, but the date might also be later.
The top Tory suggested today holidays would only “primarily” open up for the summer season, July and August, rather than May and June.
Thirdly, families visiting countries in all three categories will have to take gold-standard PCR tests costing around £120 each.
Officials are looking at making PCR tests cheaper, using less reliable lateral flow tests or helping fund costs – but none of this is confirmed.
And lastly, even once the green, amber and red lists are published, there will be nothing to stop countries switching lists at short notice.
Despite all the uncertainties, Mr Shapps today revealed the first green, amber and red lists will be published within two to three weeks.
That could trigger an avalanche of bookings from pent-up Brits to go abroad for holidays and to see long-separated loved ones.
The Transport Secretary told Sky News: “I’m not saying to people they shouldn’t book summer holidays, that’s the first time I’ve been able to say that for many months.
“But I think everybody doing it understands there are risks with coronavirus and of course actually I think people would want to be clear about which countries are going to be in the different traffic light system.
“And people predominantly of course will be looking to book in a green country.
“There’s only two to three weeks to wait before we publish that list.
“But yes, tentative progress, for the first time people can start to think about visiting loved ones abroad, or perhaps a summer holiday, but we’re doing it very, very cautiously because we don’t want to see any return of coronavirus in this country.”
Mr Shapps – who was caught by his own travel corridor system last year – said he will hold off on booking his own break until the green, amber and red lists are published.