Why the government’s list of summer holiday destinations for 2020 is bizarre

British holidaymakers can venture to Pitcairn and the high Pyrenees, but not to the UK’s oldest ally, Portugal.

The list of locations from which quarantine will not be required for travellers returning to England this summer is baffling.

There is general delight that Greece has made the grade, because only hours earlier the man responsible for the list – transport secretary Grant Shapps – had assured the world that it was to be left out in revenge for Athens’ current ban on flights from the UK.

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But hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers with bookings for Portugal will now be seeking refunds and alternative holidays after the beaches of the Algarve were considered too dangerous, with the medical authorities apparently concerned about a couple of spikes in infections.

The omission is causing a serious diplomatic conflict with Lisbon, and has angered Tory backbenchers exasperated by their government’s missteps.

Ministers will be aware that Pitcairn Island, adrift in the Pacific, was the last resort for nine of the mutineers on the Bounty.

The minnows of Europe are all there – Andorra, Gibraltar, Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino and the plucky Vatican City – but Africa is missing completely. This deepens the economic pain for Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco in the north, and the tourism-dependent East African nations.

Turkey, though, has made the list – a huge relief for travel firms who have already lost hundreds of millions of pounds as the coronavirus crisis was exacerbated by the dark cloud of uncertainty about whether, where, and when we would be able to travel again.

The term “U-turn” hardly begins to describe the contortions performed in the government’s shambolic efforts to reverse the bizarre policy of blanket quarantine. The“traffic light” system, championed just days ago, appears to have been abandoned in favour of a binary go/no-go choice.

Perhaps “making up the numbers” was part of the brief for civil servants desperately seeking to bulk out the announcement and take it beyond the borders of Europe. North America, the Gulf and almost all the parts of Asia that British holidaymakers love are all on the naughty list. So Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao – the Dutch possessions just north of Venezuela – are in, as well as many of the French islands in the South Pacific.

So too is the odd French duo of St Pierre and Miquelon tucked in beside Newfoundland. Travellers who make it on the weekly flight from Paris will be able to gaze at Canada, but not touch. St Helena has made the grade, but that is academic since it is accessible only via Africa.

The deep north is represented by Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands – which coincidentally was the title of Lonely Planet’s worst-selling travel guide.

Selling the idea that the government has thought long and hard to produce a meaningful menu for summer travel will prove equally tricky.

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