With COVID-19 cases not dropping fast enough, Cyprus missed out on the UK’s coveted ‘green list’ which means British tourists must self-isolate on return from an island holiday.
Being on the green list would have boosted Cyprus holiday bookings from the UK – its biggest market.
Cyprus allows entry to vaccinated UK tourists but must wait until June at the earliest for quarantine on return to be lifted.
The UK transport secretary, Grant Shapps, on Friday revealed the much anticipated ‘green list’ for when international leisure travel resumes from England on 17 May.
Only 12 nations and territories have qualified for “no quarantine” status for returning travellers: Ascension Island, Australia, Brunei, the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Israel, New Zealand, Portugal, Tristan da Cunha, St Helena, Singapore, South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands.
Malta, and the Balearic Islands of Spain, had hoped to achieve green list status but were disappointed.
The only traditional summer-sun destinations on the green list are Portugal, Gibraltar, and Israel.
Under the new traffic light system, countries are rated as red, amber, or green, depending on the risk they are believed to pose of importing new cases and variants of coronavirus to the UK.
Travellers from green list nations must pay for pre-departure and post-arrival tests before the journey back to the UK.
The existing red list, requiring hotel quarantine, has been expanded with the addition of Turkey, the Maldives and Nepal. It now totals 43 countries.
The remaining nations – around 150 of them including Cyprus – are on the amber list.
Arrivals from amber list countries must self-isolate at home for 10 days (or fewer, if a test after five days proves negative).
The new traffic light system uses data that evaluates the risk that arrivals from abroad, including returning holidaymakers, may harm public health in the UK.
The criteria are coronavirus infection rates, reliability of data, prevalence of “variants of concern,” genomic sequencing capability, vaccine roll-out and passengers connecting through key hubs.
Shapps called the list a “first step” and said it was “necessarily cautious”.
“We must make absolutely sure that the countries we reconnect with are safe. That their infection rates are low, and their vaccination rates are high.”
“Nobody wants to go back into lockdown – not ever.”
Reviews of the green list are expected to take place every three weeks.
“The signs overseas are now more promising as a result of their vaccination programmes beginning to crank up,” Shapps said. “We have to turn the key slowly”
The green list is not reciprocal: many of the locations are closed to British travellers, and others will accept only tourists who have been fully vaccinated.
Wales and Scotland are expected to adopt the same scheme.
Cyprus missed out on the green list with most of Europe due to the Covid situation in the country.
A spike in cases last month saw daily cases hit highs of 927, the highest for Cyprus since the pandemic began.
Just over 34% of the population have received their first vaccine dose, compared to 51% in the UK.
British holidaymakers are keen to book trips this week after endless months of lockdown.
Popular destinations Greece and Spain, along with France and the US, also missed out on the green list but could be added by June.
Cyprus is also hoping to be added from June if cases continue to fall, as the vaccine rollout gathers speed.
The island has already said they will welcome Britons back from May 10, when the lockdown ends.
Cyprus has registered 68,766 COVID-19 infections and 332 deaths in the past 14 months.
Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands
Democratic Republic of Congo
United Arab Emirates