Britons will be able to go on summer holidays abroad as the government prepares to announce that people travelling to certain countries will no longer be required to self-isolate for 14 days upon returning to the UK.
Ministers are poised to clear the way for trips to France, Greece and Spain after confirming the quarantine measures would be changed at Monday’s review.
Officials will replace existing rules with a traffic light system that will see countries placed into green, amber and red categories based on the prevalence of coronavirus in each.
It will mean only passengers arriving back from nations in the red category – where the spread of coronavirus is deemed to be high – will have to self-isolate for a fortnight.
People will still have to reveal the address where they plan to stay on their return, no matter which country they are coming back from.
The government said the changes would provide a “vital lifeline for UK travel operators and those whose jobs rely on the travel industry”.
“Our public health measures at the border were put in place to manage the risk of imported cases and help prevent a second wave of the virus, and will continue to support our fight against coronavirus,” a government spokeswoman said.
“Our new risk-assessment system will enable us to carefully open a number of safe travel routes around the world – giving people the opportunity for a summer holiday abroad and boosting the UK economy through tourism and business.
“But we will not hesitate to put on the brakes if any risks re-emerge, and this system will enable us to take swift action to reintroduce self-isolation measures if new outbreaks occur overseas.”
The existing quarantine measures have attracted widespread derision since their introduction, with critics suggesting they were brought in too late and applied to some countries where COVID-19 was not as rife as in the UK.
Rules implemented from 8 June have meant all passengers – with a handful of exemptions – have been required to go into self-isolation for 14 days at a declared address when they arrive in the UK.
Those who fail to comply can be fined £1,000 in England, with police allowed to use “reasonable force” to make sure they follow the rules.
The International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG) described the blanket quarantine measures as “illogical”, while budget airline Ryanair labelled them “idiotic rubbish”.
A full list of the low-risk countries in the green and amber categories, where people will be able to enter the UK from without being required to self-isolate, is set to be published next week.
Government sources confirmed countries where people will be able to travel restriction-free from as soon as 6 July will include France, Spain and Greece.
The Joint Biosecurity Centre, working with Public Health England, has been responsible for categorising the countries.
Government sources said all passengers would be required by law to wear face-coverings on planes and ferries to protect others.
And the Foreign Office is also expected to change its travel advice warning against all but essential travel.