Sun-starved Britons told to wait a few more days before making overseas holiday bookings

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un-starved Britons were today asked by the Government to wait a few more days before booking summer holidays abroad.

Travel firms said they were already getting calls from sunseekers ahead of the official go-ahead, with some people taking a risk that their destination opens up in time.

Tui said: “We anticipate a surge in bookings as soon as destinations are categorised into green and amber later this week. After a cold bank holiday, we know people really are starting to dream about escaping to the sunshine again soon.”

Thomas Cook said bookings were up 50 per cent on last week – with groups of couples and extended families choosing to go away together rather than party with strangers. Spain and Greece were the most popular destinations, despite not being expected to appear on the green list until later.

International Trade Secretary Ms Truss told Sky News: “Well we won’t have much longer to wait to get the full announcement from the travel taskforce. I would suggest that people wait for that.”

A traffic light system of red, amber and green lights for each country is expected to be published ahead of May 17 when foreign travel rules are due to ease.  However, the green list hotspots – which do not require isolation or quarantine on the return –  is expected to be very short at first. Malta, Portugal, Israel and the Seychelles are among those likely to be on the list because infection rates are low. Favourites like Italy, Greece and Spain could join the list later in the summer.

Ms Truss urged: “The really important thing is that we don’t move too fast and jeopardise the progress we’ve made, so people will have to wait a bit longer, I’m afraid, to be able to hear the news on exactly what’s happening on the travel front.”

Europe keen to open for UK tourists

Portugal’s secretary of state for tourism, Rita Marques, said her country was hopeful of welcoming tourists who have had the vaccine or tested negative soon.

“The Portuguese government is expecting what other governments are expecting, so basically you need to prove that you have a vaccine, or that you have an immunisation – so that you are immune to the virus since you have been in contact with it before – or that you have a negative test.”

She told BBC Breakfast: “The rules will be pretty much the same all over Europe.”

Italy is seeing a surge of calls from Britons and Americans, said Stefano Bettanin, president of Property Managers Italia. “Now people feel safer and want to travel again,” he said.

The EU announced over the weekend that it is keen to open up to countries like the UK. Epidemiologist Prof Neil Ferguson said: “The EU did have a very strong caveat that they reserve the right to clamp down again if there were variants of concern.

“I think that’s everybody’s concerned at the moment across the European continent, that we don’t want to see vaccination undermined by things like the South African variant spreading in an uncontrolled manner.”

He added: “But with that one caveat, if we can find ways of reopening international travel which mitigates that risk, then I think everybody would like to be able to have some opportunity to go overseas.”

Prof Ferguson said he had not yet booked a summer holiday overseas, but added: “I think if for instance, by the summer, infection levels in France and Italy are the same sort of level as they are here, then there’s no risk associated with travelling overseas.

“The risk comes from going from a place like the UK with very low infection levels and going to a place with much higher infection levels and therefore having the risk of bringing infection back. If the two places are at comparable levels and that’s what the EU is saying, then there is no particular risks associated with the travel.”