Holiday blow as Europe delays decision to let Britons back in over Indian variant fears

Indian variant: Map shows the spread of B.1.617.2 in May

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EU ambassadors today refused to open up tourism again as member states nervously watch the rise in cases in the UK. Diplomatic sources said plans to sign off on the UK’s inclusion on the bloc’s safe travel list had been shelved for at least 10 days. One EU diplomat said: “A string of concerning developments in the UK is not helping.

“There’s the Indian variant turning into dominant variant and rising incidence rates, as well as UK debate on consequences from all of that.”

A second insider added: “The UK has an upward trend so will not be proposed to be added to the list.”

European capitals review their travel restrictions every two weeks – meaning the earliest they could be dropped for us is June 14.

Britain had been due to be one of the very first countries to be green-lighted for non-essential travel before the new variant struck.

Instead, EU envoys allowed Japan to join the bloc’s “white list” of countries deemed safe for holidays.

The bloc has had a ban on all non-essential arrivals since March last year.

Only half a dozen countries with low Covid rates, like Australia and New Zealand, are currently exempt from the measures.

Capitals have agreed to relax the rules to allow more overseas visitors to the bloc, but the list is expected to be expanded more slowly than expected because of variant worries.

Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy have appealed for British holidaymakers to visit after defying the EU’s travel ban.

The blow to summer travel comes as the European vaccine passport went live for the first time.

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Brussels announced the “technical backbone” of the system which will allow countries to scan people’s jabs status is now complete.

Seven states – Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Croatia, Poland and the Czech Republic – will use it to kickstart internal EU travel.

But eurocrats expect that number to group in the coming days, with the system set to go live across the whole of the continent on July 1.

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And the scheme is then to open up to countries with similar vaccine passports, like Britain.

Internal market commissioner Thierry Breton said: “The EU will be on time to open up again this summer.”

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