Boris Johnson tonight gave the green light to the travel 'green list' as he gave the thumbs up for Britons to enjoy a foreign holiday this summer.
Holidaymakers will be given the go-ahead to jet off to sunnier climes from Monday when the ban on non-essential foreign travel is finally lifted.
Staycations 'anywhere in the UK' will also be allowed from Monday when a ban on overnight stays is lifted, Mr Johnson confirmed at tonight's Downing Street press conference.
But the Prime Minister urged sunseekers to stick to Covid safe countries when choosing their holiday destination.
It comes after the Government announced a 'green list' of 12 countries and territories that travellers can head to from May 17 without having to quarantine on their return.
Top holiday spots on the list include Portugal, as well as the antonymous islands of the Azores, and Madeira, and Israel.
Australia and New Zealand are also on the 'green list' , along with Iceland and the Faroe Islands.
Sunseekers will be given the go-ahead to jet off to sunnier climes from Monday when the ban on non-essential foreign travel is finally lifted. Pictured: A beach in the Algarve, Portugal, which is on the UK's green list
The Prime Minister (pictured) tonight urged holiday-makers to only visit Covid safe countries on their holidays
Most countries will be placed on the 'amber list', which means travellers will have to self-isolate at home for 10 days, with a five day release with a negative test.
Meanwhile, the worst hit countries for Covid will be placed on the 'red list'.
Those returning from 'red list' countries will have to isolate in Government contracted hotels for 10 days.
It comes as Mr Johnson batted away calls for lockdown to be eased faster tonight as he talked up the latest relaxations - with pints inside the pub back from Monday, along with hugs for friends and family and staycations.
The PM hailed a 'very considerable step on the road back to normality' as he said planned easings will go ahead in England on May 17.
But flanked by medical and science chiefs Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance at a Downing Street briefing, he urged people to be cautious, saying the country must remain 'vigilant' about fuelling cases and the threat from variants.
Pouring cold water on the idea that the next milestone of June 21 could be brought forward, he insisted it will take time to assess the impact of this wave of loosening.
However, he did attempt to sweeten the pill by hinting that social distancing might be dropped altogether at that point, and the idea of Covid certificates might be abandoned.
As of Monday groups of six or two households will be allowed to meet indoors for the first time in months.
Overnight visits will also be allowed, while outdoors the limit will rise to 30 in the most significant loosening yet.
Staycations can also get properly up and running, with hotels and B&Bs that do not have self-catering facilities permitted to open - as well as cinemas and theatres if audiences wear masks.
Crucially the government has decided the risk is now low enough that social distancing can be left more to 'personal choice' - meaning that while people are urged to be 'cautious', hugs are allowed at private gatherings.
However, despite the very low infection rate and stunning vaccine rollout, social distancing rules will still be maintained at bars and restaurants.
Together with a requirement for table service indoors, the hospitality industry warned it is more a 'psychological opening rather than an economic one' and many venues will still struggle to make ends meet.
Advice to work from home where possible will also stay in place.
Among other elements of the changes from next week, the much-criticised cap on the number of mourners at funerals will be lifted, while up to 30 people will be allowed at weddings and other life events.
In a huge relief for many isolated elderly people and their families, care home residents will be able to have up to five named visitors - and up to two at once provided they are tested and follow guidelines. Residents will also have greater freedom to leave homes without having to isolate afterwards.
Indoor sport and exercise classes can restart, along with sauna and steamrooms. And secondary pupils will no longer need to wear masks at schools in England.
As announced by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps last week, a step is also being taken towards bringing back foreign holidays, with no quarantine requirements for those returning from 12 countries on the so-called green list.
Mr Johnson thanked the public for their commitment as he said infections were now at the 'lowest level since last July'. 'The data now support moving to step three in England from next Monday 17th May,' he said.
The positive news came as the UK's Covid alert level was downgraded to three amid the success of the vaccination roll-out and dwindling case numbers.
Health chiefs say infections, hospital admissions and deaths have 'fallen consistently' over the past few months, with social distancing measures and the huge inoculation drive to thank.
The move to downgrade the alert level — agreed by all four of the UK's chief medical officers and a senior NHS official — means the coronavirus is now only in 'general circulation' and transmission is no longer 'high or rising exponentially'
The decision by all four chief medical officers and a senior NHS official means coronavirus is now only in 'general circulation' and transmission is no longer 'high or rising exponentially'.
It will inevitably be used as fuel for scientists and Tories desperate for a quicker return to normal. Even one of No10's scientific advisers on a sub-panel of SAGE has claimed restrictions could be 'safely accelerated'.
The Prime Minister has been repeatedly urged to stick to his 'data, not dates' pledge for easing restrictions in England, despite refusing to budge in the face of very low infection rates and a hugely successful vaccination drive. Deaths have fallen into single figures while cases are at similar levels to September.
Earlier, health minister Nadine Dorries set hares running by seeming to suggest the June 21 date for ending lockdown altogether could be brought forward.
But Mr Johnson this evening insisted that the roadmap was still on track for the existing deadline - merely insisting that the government would be giving businesses more warning than planned about exactly what will happen after June 21.
He said that would include information about what role there would be 'if any for certification and social distancing'.
'I think at the moment it looks to me as if we might be able to dispense with the metre plus rule,' the premier said.