Which countries could be added to the green list next?

Jun 23, 2021

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information.


Just 11 countries and territories are currently on the U.K. government’s coveted green list for travel without the need for quarantine on your return to the U.K. As the European summer travel season continues, hardly any of the usual popular destinations like Spain and Greece are included on the current green list. They — like 165 other countries — were placed on the amber list.

The shock removal of Portugal from the green list to the amber list earlier this month was a further blow to anyone hoping to salvage a summer holiday this year.

Related: 10 reasons Portugal is the perfect place to visit this summer

With such a small green list right now, which destinations could be added next?

In This Post

When will the green list be updated?

The next review of the traffic light system is currently scheduled for Thursday 24 June 2021, with any changes to the lists likely to take effect from Monday 28 June.

What are the requirements to join the green list?

The U.K. government has not published the official requirements needed to be added to the green or amber lists. This may be because several countries that have significantly lower new infection rates per capita than the United Kingdom, low or no rates of the highly infectious Delta variant and well-progressed vaccination rates have never been on the green list.

The Caribbean island of Grenada, for example, has not had a single new case of COVID-19 for months. Malta’s seven-day new infection rate is 2.1 cases per 100,000 people, versus the U.K.’s rate of 93.7, almost 40 times higher. Malta has also vaccinated more of its population at least once than the United Kingdom has.

However, both destinations still remain on the amber list, which suggests there is no actual benchmark for making the green list.

Saint George-Harbour, Grenada. (Photo by Westend61/Getty Images)

Some destinations are where they are for other reasons. The United Arab Emirates has one of the most advanced vaccination programmes in the world (almost 40% of adults are fully vaccinated at the time of publication), though the UAE is currently on the red list, requiring mandatory hotel quarantine on return to the United Kingdom.

One of the main reasons for this is because, despite its vaccination programme, the UAE operates major global transit airports in Dubai (DXB) and Abu Dhabi (AUH), where passengers from high-risk countries regularly mix with passengers from low-risk countries.

Related: All 50 countries that are on the UK’s travel red list

Which countries may be added next?

Unfortunately, it is unlikely any countries will be added to the green list at the next review on 24 June.

This is because the following countries were expected to be added at the last review on 7 June, but were not:

  • Malta
  • Finland
  • Grenada
  • Cayman Islands
  • Fiji
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • Turks and Caicos
  • Anguilla

Related: Everything you need to know about transiting through European airports during the pandemic

Travel analyst Paul Charles from The PC Agency has identified even more countries which should have already been added to the green list based on their pandemic statistics, but weren’t at the last review, and are therefore unlikely to be added at the next review.

Note the significantly lower seven- and 14-day infection rates that several amber list countries are experiencing, compared to the U.K.

Will countries be split by regions?

Currently, each European country is currently listed once on the green, amber and red lists, rather than splitting between different regions, which may have different infection and vaccination rates. This is in contrast to the travel corridors of last summer, where, for example, some Greek islands did not require quarantine on return to the U.K., while others did.

The Canary Islands in Spain have a much lower rate of new infections than mainland Spain. Their remote location allows the islands to control arrivals and departures more easily than landlocked EU countries with open borders.

A regional approach may be taken to the green list at a later time though it is unlikely to be at the next review on 24 June.

Playa de Las Teresitas. (Photo by Westend61/Getty)

What about if I am fully vaccinated?

The U.K.’s vaccination programme continues to proceed successfully, with 47.2% of the U.K. population now fully vaccinated, versus only 10% of the world’s population at the time of publication.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Tuesday that ministers were looking at the quarantine exemption from amber list countries for fully vaccinated travellers, noting that he was “in favour of moving forward in this area.”

“We’re not ready to be able to take that step yet, but it’s something that I want to see and we will introduce, subject to clinical advice, as soon as it’s reasonable to do so,” Hancock said on Monday.

Do note, however, if this exemption is approved, it is unlikely to start until August, more than a month away at the time of writing.

Related: Government will drop quarantine requirement for fully vaccinated amber arrivals

What about the United States?

The United States is a huge tourism market for British travellers, especially over the summer months. With more than 135 million Americans already fully vaccinated, travel operators had hoped the U.S. would move from amber to green at the recent G-7 summit in Cornwall, where President Biden and Prime Minister Johnson had met in person to discuss this and had the opportunity to make a joint announcement.

Unfortunately, the G-7 came and went with no announcement.

It remains unclear if there is a travel corridor in the works. It’s also unlikely that we see the United States added to the green list on Thursday.

(Photo by Teresa Barajas via Unsplash)

Bottom line

There’s little good news predicted for the next review of the green list.

Most travel experts believe based on the last review where no countries were added to the green list, plus the shock move of Portugal from green to amber, that no destinations will be added at the next review. The four-week delay of the U.K.’s “freedom day” also suggests a delay in travel restrictions easing.

Very low seven- and 14-day new infection rates per capita, good vaccination rollouts and little to no Delta variant cases would be logical criteria to make the green list, however, destinations that meet all of these criteria remain frustratingly on the amber list.

The recent news that fully vaccinated British travellers may be able to skip quarantine after returning from amber countries is certainly welcome news, however, if this does occur it is not expected to start for well over a month, which would be late summer at the earliest.

If you are gambling on a certain destination being added to the green list before you travel there this year, ensure you are aware of the terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy, as travelling to an amber country against government advice may invalidate your travel insurance policy.

Featured photo by danilovi / Getty Images.

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