All remaining countries on England’s travel “red list” will be removed and vaccines from at least a dozen more countries are to be recognised, ministers are expected to announce in a significant opening up of borders.
The move, which the Guardian understands was signed off at a meeting on Thursday afternoon, means no passengers arriving in England will have to quarantine in a hotel at a cost of more than £2,000.
However, the red list system will not be abandoned entirely, and countries may be added again in future if concerning new variants emerge.
The red list was slimmed down significantly at the last review, and only included South and Central American countries. The final ones to be removed will be Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Venezuela.
The government is also preparing to recognise at least 12 more countries’ vaccines, meaning travellers from them can avoid needing to stay at home for up to 10 days if fully inoculated with an approved jab.
It came as the European Commission announced that UK certificates will be recognised as being equivalent in status to the bloc’s own digital Covid certificate from Friday.
While many EU member states have already unilaterally recognised the NHS Covid pass, the long-awaited decision ensures it will be automatically accepted across Europe.
Travellers to countries such as the Netherlands will no longer have to take daily Covid tests to enter bars, restaurants and museums.
Didier Reynders, the EU commissioner for justice, said: “Safer travel is a reality thanks to the EU digital Covid certificate, which is now the leading global standard: 45 countries in four continents are connected to the system and more will follow in the coming weeks and months. We are open to other countries to join our system.”
The commission took three months to assess the UK’s application for equivalence status, which will cover passes issued in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Switzerland, Ukraine, Turkey and North Macedonia all secured the status within a period of five to eight weeks after applying.
Vaccination certificates issued in Armenia will also be recognised from Friday, the commission said.
The tie-up will fold data held by the UK’s NHS app into the EU digital Covid certificate, allowing other countries to access users’ vaccine status and test results at the border.
The lack of equivalence status between the NHS app and the EU system has been a thorn in the side of British tourists seeking to visit a range of European destinations and for those people who were vaccinated in the UK but who live abroad.
The problem has become particularly acute as an increasing number of EU governments have started requiring a Covid pass for entrance to events or hospitality venues.
Since 2 August, visitors from the EU who have been fully vaccinated with a single EMA-approved vaccine have not been obliged to quarantine on entry to the UK.