British holidaymakers planning a desperate bolt for the sun from Monday should avoid countries on the UK's amber list even though they can visit them, Matt Hancock said today.
The Health Secretary said that although nations like Spain, Italy, France and Greece can be visited if people are willing to quarantine at home afterwards, they should not unless it is 'absolutely necessary'.
It came as ministers faced increasing questions over delays in putting India on the UK's red list, which critics say allowed the current Indian variant to gain a foothold in the UK.
Under a traffic light system that comes into effect tomorrow, British holidaymakers can travel to a small list of 12 green list countries - including Portugal - without having to quarantine on their return.
But the vast majority of popular tourist destinations remain in the amber zone. This requires them to quarantine for 14 days at home upon return, but they avoid the expensive hotel quarantine required for people visiting red list states.
Boris Johnson last week conceded that the ranking system was unlikely to be altered in the near future.
Speaking to Tom Newton Dunn and Daisy McAndrew on Times Radio today, Mr Hancock said: 'We have a green list where it's okay to go and that's why we've brought the green list in.
'But what I would say is that people should not travel to amber or red list countries unless it's absolutely necessary. And certainly not for holiday purposes.'
The Health Secretary said that although nations like Spain, Italy, France and Greece can be visited if people are willing to quarantine at home afterwards, he urged against it unless 'absolutely necessary.
Under a traffic light system that comes into effect tomorrow, the vast majority of popular tourist destinations like Spain (Grand Canaria in the canary Islands pictured) remain in the amber zone. This requires visitors to quarantine for 14 days at home upon their return.
Downing Street released the full list of countries on green, amber and red lists ahead of a loosening of restrictions tomorrow
The Health Secretary said that although nations like Spain, Italy, France and Greece can be visited if people are willing to quarantine at home afterwards, he urged against it unless 'absolutely necessary'.
The countries on the 'green list' from May 17 are: Portugal including the Azores and Madeira; Australia; New Zealand; Singapore; Brunei; Iceland; the Faroe Islands; Gibraltar; the Falkland Islands; and Israel
Asked why the Government did not just add amber countries to the red list if they were that bad, Mr Hancock said: 'There are lots of different reasons and really acute reasons that people have to travel.
'For instance people have dying relatives abroad. And then we have the amber list and the red list for the type of isolation you need to go into when you come home.
'And everybody goes through a testing regime, whether you're in green, amber, or red, so that we can spot the new variants and spot a problem in the other country.'
Travel firms have reported a surge in demand for trips to Portugal, after the Government put the country on its green list for travel.
EasyJet has added 105,000 extra seats to its flights serving green-tier destinations, while Tui will use aircraft which normally operate long-haul routes to accommodate the surge of people booked to fly to Portugal.
Only a dozen countries and territories are on the green list but most are either remote islands or do not currently allow UK tourists to enter.
Meanwhile an Oxford University medical expert told the same programme that UK holidaymakers should forget about foreign holidays this year.
Regius Professor of Medicine Sir John Bell: I don't think anybody's going on a holiday, except in the UK'
Regius Professor of Medicine Sir John Bell cautioned that there are 'broad swathes of Europe that are largely unvaccinated' and are therefore 'pretty vulnerable to new variants, be it Indian or otherwise, sweeping across the continent'.
'I don't think anybody's going on a holiday, except in the UK, because I think there will be pretty substantial border controls,' he said.
'And I think that's probably a legitimate position to take. But if you want to go to the Falkland Islands, good luck to you...
'Having people flying around and coming back with whatever local variant they run into, that is not a good idea.
'People just have to get used to the fact that Cornwall or Bournemouth or wherever is not so bad.
'And they should just enjoy the summer and then we can get back to this properly when things settle down.'
But the boss of British Airways today called on the Government to reunite Britons with their families overseas by urgently opening up air travel to low-risk countries.
In a rallying cry to Ministers, Sean Doyle said data on vaccination and infection rates for countries including the US, Spain and Greece made a 'compelling case' for putting them on the green list for quarantine-free travel from early next month.
In a rallying cry to Ministers, Sean Doyle said data on vaccination and infection rates for countries including the US, Spain and Greece made a 'compelling case' for putting them on the green list for quarantine-free travel from early next month
Many were missing out on key family milestones such as the birth of a first grandchild or a parent's funeral, he said (file photo)
The BA chief executive said the six million British expatriates around the world were desperate to see their loved ones after 'a very tough 14 months'.
He revealed that he had received letters from BA customers sharing what he called the 'tragic human circumstances' of being unable to fly abroad.
Many were missing out on key family milestones such as the birth of a first grandchild or a parent's funeral, he said.
Mr Doyle told The Mail on Sunday: 'You've got people who have got elderly or frail parents they have been unable to see.
'You've also got people who have suffered bereavements who haven't been able to come back and grieve.
'These are massively emotional situations people are finding themselves in, and I think as people get vaccinated, as infections fall, one of the things people want to do first is to get out and reconnect with loved ones.
'When travel can be safely opened up, that's something we would be very keen to enable.'