May 12, 2021


travel, Always a step ahead

What will Covid rules mean for holidays after January 1?

3 min read

Which EU countries currently have higher Covid-19 rates than the UK?

The UK’s criteria for its own quarantine list includes a country’s infection rate per 100,000 people (although over seven days, rather than 14). Its infection rate threshold for travel corridors has moved with its rising infection rate, upped from a seven-day rate of 25 cases per 100,000 to 100 per 100,000. EU countries might choose to take a similar approach when imposing restrictions on arrivals from the UK. The UK’s 14-day infection rate as of December 11 is 319.9.

This is lower than the following countries:

Italy: 459.4 per 100,000
Germany: 320.0
Poland 423.9
Netherlands: 477.2
Czech Republic: 541.7
Romania: 462.3
Portugal: 533.4
Sweden: 734.1
Austria: 523.5
Hungary: 744.5
Bulgaria: 542
Croatia: 1186.5
Slovakia: 434.2
Denmark: 432.2
Slovenia: 1001.9
Lithuania: 1187.9
Luxembourg: 1292.9
Latvia: 444.5
Estonia: 425.9
Cyprus: 499.9
Liechtenstein: 575.9

Which EU countries rely most on British tourists?

Countries where Britons make up a large proportion of visitor numbers could prove to be more lenient in their approach to travellers arriving from the UK. This could include the tourism-dependent economies of Portugal, Spain, Greece and Malta.

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: “I cannot believe that EU countries who rely on the spending power of UK business and leisure travellers will seek to block entry after January 1.

“I’m sure that individual countries who need UK tourism will be sensible and override any EU-bloc decision which prevents entry.”

Tourists from the UK make up the largest single visitor group to Portugal, for example. Around 2.5 million British nationals visited in 2019, with holidaymakers from the UK particularly important to the Algarve.

UK travellers are also Spain’s largest single visitor group, with over 18 million of us visiting in 2019. In Malta (also on the UK’s quarantine-list), meanwhile, around 25 per cent of all arrivals are British. As it stands, travellers from the UK are exempt from self-isolation in Malta, but are required to present a negative PCR test result (taken within 72 hours of arrival) before boarding a flight to the country.

Greece and its islands proved an ever popular choice among Britons who took a holiday abroad this summer. As more countries dropped off the quarantine-free list, Greece clung on. However, there are now just five Greek islands –Rhodes, Kos, Zakynthos, Corfu and Crete – that retain a travel corridor with the UK. The UK was the second biggest inbound tourist market for Greece in 2019, just behind Germany.

Should I travel to Europe before January to avoid a possible travel ban?

Given the UK’s dwindling travel corridor list, holiday options in Europe are already severely limited. Just three destinations (Iceland, Madeira and Jersey) are feasible (ie without a lengthy period of quarantine at either end) and all involve a test and/or a short period of quarantine on arrival.  Should you be planning a break to one of these destinations, industry experts suggest that you are unlikely to find yourself shut out after January 1.  

A spokesman for Airlines UK said: “We expect EU member states that gain enormously from the tourism and air travel from the UK, and the billions of pounds it generates, to continue to apply their own rules, in order to provide certainty to consumers and families looking to travel to the EU from January onwards.”

Meanwhile, an Abta spokesperson told Telegraph Travel: “The EU has sought to adopt a common approach to travel restrictions, but this is only a recommendation and individual countries are able to implement their own measures, including options like travel corridors and testing. 

“It is too early to say what restrictions might be in place on January 1, given the uncertain nature of the pandemic, but we know that UK travellers are hugely important to a number of EU destinations, including some winter-sun favourites like […] Madeira.”

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