Lockdown-weary Brits face fresh uncertainty over foreign holidays after the Government refused to confirm whether international travel could resume next month.
The Department for Transport's Global Travel Taskforce, which is looking out how to reopen international travel from May 17 at the earliest, confirmed plans for a traffic light system outlining rules for passengers returning from overseas.
But it dampened hopes for summer plans by insisting it was too early to outline countries which could be deemed safe for Britons to visit in the coming months.
And it said an expected announcement on whether foreign holidays could resume would not come until next month.
In a bit of good news, officials are looking at funding holidaymakers' pre-flight coronavirus tests in a move to cut costs for families desperate for summer sunshine breaks. © Getty ImagesForeign holidays are not expected to be allowed until May 17 at the earliest
The DfT said it would "work with the travel industry and private testing providers ahead of international travel reopening to see how we can further reduce the cost of travel for the British public while ensuring travel is as safe as possible".
It added: "This could include cheaper tests being used when holidaymakers return home, as well as whether the Government would be able to provide pre-departure tests."
Ministers are desperate not to jeopardise the success of the Covid-19 inoculation rollout by importing vaccine-resistant mutations from abroad.
Experts will allocate nations to green, amber or red categories depending on countries' vaccination rates, infection levels and whether mutant strains - dubbed "variants of concern" - are rife.
The DfT said: "The risks posed by these variants remain significant, and restrictions for inbound passengers, such as 10-day managed quarantine, home quarantine, and stringent testing will remain in place, but will apply to people differently depending on whether the destination visited is categorised as green, amber or red."
Passengers landing from green nations will need to take a pre-departure test before flying back, as well as a PCR test on or before day two of their arrival in the UK.
But they will not need to quarantine, unless they receive a positive result, or take any additional tests.
Those returning from amber countries must self-isolate for 10 days and take a pre-departure test, a PCR test on day two and day eight, with the option for "test to release" on day five to end quarantine early.
Arrivals from red countries must pay £1,750 to quarantine for 10 days in a Government-approved hotel, undergo pre-departure testing and PCR testing on day two and eight.
A "green watchlist" will be introduced to help identify countries most at risk of moving from green to amber.
The DfT said: "It is too early to predict which countries will be on which list over the summer, and the Government continues to consider a range of factors to inform the restrictions placed on them.
"We will set out by early May which countries will fall into which category, as well as confirming whether international travel can resume from May 17." © Daily Mirror/Andy StenningForeign travel is currently illegal, with a handful of exemptions
Officials are eyeing countries like Israel and the US as places where Brits could travel without having to quarantine on their return.
But sources said it was "not near enough" to May 17 yet to decide which nations will be on the green, amber and red lists.
A source said: "This tells you what the methodology is for the lists - countries will start being slotted in later."
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "The framework announced today will help allow us to reopen travel safely and sustainably, ensure we protect our hard-won achievements on the vaccine rollout and offer peace of mind to both passengers and industry as we begin to take trips abroad once again."
The announcement was vague about a role for vaccine passports to make international travel easier.
The DfT said: "The UK will also play a leading role in the development of international standards around a digital travel certification system.
"The Department for Transport is working across government to consider the role certification could play in facilitating outbound travel, for those countries which have systems in place.
"Work also continues to develop a system that would facilitate travel certification for inbound international travel."
Restrictions will be reviewed on June 28 to see if measures can be relaxed.
More reviews will take place no later than July 31 and October 1.