Double-jabbed Britons will be able to visit Germany, Angela Merkel declared on Friday, as sources said ministers were aiming to open up foreign travel for vaccinated UK holidaymakers from July 19.
After talks with Boris Johnson at Chequers, the German chancellor appeared to soften her demands for tough EU-wide restrictions on Britons to prevent the spread of the Indian or delta Covid variant.
Last week, Mrs Merkel urged EU leaders to impose quarantine restrictions on Britons regardless of their vaccination status because of concerns over a surge in cases of the delta variant across the continent.
But on Friday she acknowledged that the strain was now spreading "very rapidly" in Germany and said travel restrictions were being reviewed for those who had received two coronavirus vaccinations.
"We have adopted certain protective measures when we were not so familiar with the delta variant," she told a joint press conference with Mr Johnson.
"We’re reviewing continuously our travel restrictions and we think that, in the foreseeable future, those who have received double jabs will then, according to our classification – and Britain now obviously is a high incidence area – will be able travel again without having to go into quarantine."
Where is the Indian (Delta) variant in the UK?
However, Mrs Merkel hinted that changes in Germany’s travel conditions should be linked to Britain also reviewing its curbs on travel as she noted that "the UK has imposed restrictions".
Mr Johnson responded: "You will have heard what Chancellor Merkel just said about the German process and where they are on double jabs and I think that is great and that is right. It sounds as though progress is being made."
Ministers are keen to try to allow fully vaccinated Britons to travel to amber countries without having to quarantine on their return from July 19, although that will depend on whether it can be implemented in time, according to sources.
"They want to try to target July 19 but putting it in place is more difficult than people suspect. Part of it is gearing up Border Force, changing forms and liaising with EU countries that would be involved with this," said a source.
If successful, it would coincide with lifting domestic Covid restrictions and allow fully jabbed adults to travel to amber countries that currently include France, Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy. People would still have to do pre-departure and day two PCR tests on their return.
Travel countries on the red, green and amber list
It is understood Border Force chiefs would prefer a delay into August because of fears that the technology and administrative upgrades needed could lead to lengthy queues at airports and ports if they are overwhelmed by a surge in holiday travellers.
Vaccination certificates will have to be integrated into passenger locator forms so they can be read by airport e-gates, which are due to be operational at all major airports by the end of July after their closure during the Covid lockdowns.
There will also have to be provision for people who do not have the NHS app but are instead relying on paper NHS vaccination certificates, while there are particular concerns about whether the infrastructure at "short straits" ports such as Dover could cope.
Children under 18 would be exempt so they could go on holiday with their vaccinated parents, although they would have to undergo daily lateral flow tests on their return.
The 30 per cent without a double jab by July 19 would have to continue to quarantine on return, with PCR tests.
Meanwhile, Ms Merkel said she was "optimistic" that "pragmatic solutions" could be brokered on the Northern Ireland protocol.
She addressed a virtual meeting of the Cabinet, the first foreign leader to do so since Bill Clinton, the former US president, in 1997, and Mr Johnson announced the creation of a new academic medal for women scientists in the German chancellor’s honour.