Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has expressed hope that “the world could open up”, as holidaymakers eagerly await an update to the Government’s foreign travel lists.
The Cabinet minister told the PA news agency that other countries are “catching up” with the UK’s coronavirus vaccination programme.
But Thursday’s review of the lists which determine the quarantine and testing requirements for people arriving in the UK is expected to be lean for holidaymakers.
The Times reported that Malta and the Balearic Islands are among a “handful” of places being considered for addition to the green list.
People arriving in the UK from green list destinations are not required to self-isolate, but there are currently no viable major tourist destinations in that tier.
Malta and Spain are currently on the amber list, alongside other popular summer hotspots such as Portugal, Italy and Greece.
A 10-day quarantine period at home is required for people returning from those locations.
A “checkpoint” review of the rules for each tier is scheduled to take place on Monday.
Asked about the prospect of restrictions being eased, Mr Shapps said: “I’m optimistic that the world is catching up with where we are in our vaccination programme.
“What happens in the UK is, people say ‘well everyone I know or a lot of people I know are vaccinated’.
“People will say that, but of course as soon as you go abroad you find that’s actually not the case.
“So balancing the opening up whilst preserving people’s safety and security at home is absolutely at the forefront.
“Of course I very much hope the world could open up. We’ve got to follow the data, and that’s what we’ll be doing in the meetings over the next few days.”
The weekly rate of coronavirus cases per 100,000 people on Malta is just 2.5, compared with 108.4 in the UK, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
Figures for the Balearic Islands – which include Ibiza, Menorca and Mallorca – are not published by the ECDC, but the weekly case rate for the whole of Spain is 49.6.
The UK’s travel industry held a day of action on Wednesday to put pressure on the Government to reopen the sector and provide tailored financial support to businesses.
Industry body Abta estimates 195,000 travel jobs have been lost during the coronavirus pandemic or are at risk.
It accused ministers of failing to deliver a restart to travel by “undermining” the traffic light system.
The Government has urged people to avoid holidays to locations on the amber list.
Hundreds of travel industry workers – including travel agents, pilots and cabin crew – gathered outside the Palace of Westminster, London; Holyrood, Edinburgh; and in Belfast.
A virtual campaign event was held for people in Cardiff.
Derek Jones, boss of luxury travel firm Kuoni, said the outbound travel sector has been “decimated by this pandemic and by the Government’s haphazard response to it”.
He added: “Today, we have joined together to call upon ministers to acknowledge that the restrictions they have placed on international travel are having a deep and devastating impact on travel businesses.
“We are united in one message today: we want to see the safe reopening of international travel alongside targeted financial support for businesses which have not been able to trade for well over a year.”
Mr Shapps said: “As a Cabinet, we take collective decisions in which we have decided, I think rightly, to prioritise the health of British people first and foremost.
“Where that’s meant for example curtailing travel, we provided £7 billion worth of support just to the aviation sector alone, £406 billion pounds to the whole economy.
“So we’ve not been slow at coming forward for support. But of course, everybody wants to see as much of the economy opened as possible.
“As Transport Secretary, for me that means people being able to travel around domestically and internationally, just as soon as it’s safe to do so.”