Spain’s Balearic islands are likely to be moved from England’s travel green watchlist to amber, meaning some passengers returning from the popular holiday destinations will have to quarantine on their return.
Multiple sources told the Guardian that the switch, which will affect those heading home from Ibiza, Mallorca, Menorca and Formentera, is expected to be discussed by ministers on Wednesday afternoon and come into force from early next week.
There has been no official confirmation from the government and last-minute decisions are sometimes made not to move countries up and down the traffic light system.
The move would make little difference to those who have had both Covid vaccines, given that from Monday 19 July, travellers returning to England from amber list countries will not have to isolate if they have been double-jabbed.
Those who have not been fully inoculated will need to isolate at home for up to 10 days – though they can use the Test to Release system from day five to leave quarantine early.
This is thought to disproportionately impact young people, who have mostly only had their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine and must wait at least eight weeks to get a second.
Several countries are expected to be added to the red list, meaning most travel from them will be banned, with the exception of arrivals of British citizens and nationals who will have to stay in a hotel for 10 days to avoid the importation of Covid variants.
Meanwhile, the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, has voiced concern over a report in the Daily Telegraph that Britons who have had two AstraZeneca vaccines including one manufactured in India were being turned away from a flight from Manchester to Malta.
He said the jabs, produced at the Serum Institute of India and given to up to 5 million Britons, were no different from those produced in the UK.
The numbers of the batches, which are not yet authorised by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and so do not qualify for the European Union’s digital vaccine passport scheme, appear on people’s vaccine card and are: 4120Z001, 4120Z002 and 4120Z003.
Steve, 64, and Glenda Hardy, 63, told the Telegraph they were turned back at Manchester airport at 3.30am on Friday when they tried to board a flight to Malta.
The news came despite Boris Johnson saying he was “very confident” that the non-European approved vaccines would not cause problems for travellers.
Shapps said on Wednesday that the UK’s medicines regulator “have been very clear that it doesn’t matter whether the AstraZeneca you have is made here or the Serum Institute in India, it is absolutely the same product, it provides exactly the same levels of protection from the virus”.
He added: “So we will certainly speak to our Maltese colleagues to point all this out. Obviously it is up to them what they do. But we will be making the scientific point in the strongest possible terms there is no difference, we don’t recognise any difference.”
Luke Evans, a Tory MP who has been working in the NHS helping vaccinate people, said at the start of July he had one of the India-made vaccines and had vaccinated “many people” with it. He urged the health secretary, Sajid Javid, to explain how he planned to resolve the problem and said he hoped it was “purely a bureaucratic issue”.
Javid did not explain what conversations were ongoing with the EU about recognising the vaccines but said “all doses used in the UK have been subject to very rigorous safety and quality checks, including individual batch testing and physical site inspections”.