Portugal has been removed from the government’s “green list” of destinations from which people can return to England without having to quarantine, and no extra countries have been added, it is understood.
The decision, set to be confirmed later on Thursday with an updated list of countries on green, amber and red lists, will dismay holidaymakers and the travel industry.
It is expected, though not confirmed, that the moving of Portugal from the green to amber list will come into effect in a week, giving people already in the country time to return.
While travel rules are a devolved matter, the initial list of countries was unified across all UK nations.
Green list destinations are the only effective choice for holidays. They allow travellers to return to England without quarantining, although they must take a Covid test before coming back and within two days of arriving.
It had been anticipated that, at most, relatively few new places would be placed on the green list, and that these would not cover popular holiday destinations such as France and mainland Spain.
Even if France had been added, as of this week UK travellers face restrictions on any non-essential travel to the country, as it seeks to curb the spread of the highly transmissible Delta coronavirus variant, which was first detected in India and is becoming dominant in the UK.
The first incarnation of the green list, announced on 7 May, comprised a dozen countries, but several were effectively inaccessible to arrivals, notably Australia and New Zealand. The only mainstream tourist destinations were Portugal, Gibraltar and Israel.
The bulk of countries remain on the amber list. While it is not illegal to go to one of these for a holiday, it is strongly discouraged. People who come to the UK fropm one must take a Covid test before travelling, and on day two and eight once they are in the UK, and must quarantine at home or in a hotel for 10 days.
Anyone returning from the 30-plus red list countries has to undergo the same testing and quarantining regime, but do it while staying in one of the designated quarantine hotels, at a cost of £1,750 per adult.