British government plans to implement traffic light system for international tourists

Published on : Monday, April 12, 2021

The British government has recently unveiled details on the suggested ‘traffic light’ system that it intends to introduce as international travel reopens. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps explained that the scheme would categorise countries based on associated risk. Authorities mentioned that factors will include the percentage of a population that have been vaccinated against COVID-19, the rate of infection, the prevalence of variants of concern and access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing.

A report released by the Global Travel Taskforce also includes plans to remove the mandatory travel form permission that was introduced in March meaning passengers would no longer need to prove they have a valid reason to leave the country. The government mentioned that testing will continue to remain an essential part of protecting public health once restrictions begin to ease with all arrivals that are not exempt required to book a pre-departure, day two and day eight test before travelling.

The traffic light system will be divided into three categories. Arrivals from green countries will need to take a pre-departure test as well as a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test on or before day two of their arrival back into the UK but will not need to quarantine on return (unless they receive a positive result) or take any additional tests, halving the cost of tests on their return from holiday. Passengers from amber countries will need to quarantine for a period of ten days and take a pre-departure test, and a PCR test on day two and day eight with the option for ‘Test to Release’ on day five to end self-isolation early.


On the other hand, visitors from red countries  will be subject to restrictions currently in place for ‘red list’ countries which include a ten-day stay in a managed quarantine hotel, pre-departure testing and PCR testing on day two and eight. Arrivals travelling from ‘red list’ countries will need to book a quarantine package before departure, and arrivals from ‘amber’ and ‘green’ countries will be required to book test packages before travelling from one of the approved list of providers.


The government has also announced plans to digitise the passenger locator form, integrating it into the UK border system and enabling checks to take place at e-gates by the autumn. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will also be given additional enforcement powers to act on airlines that have breached consumer rights with a dedicated consultation on how to use additional tools to enforce consumer rights expected later this year. Finally, a COVID-19 charter will also be introduced from May 17, setting out what is required of passengers while measures remain in place.


Officials added 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. A decision is expected in early May on which countries will be added to which list, and if can travel can resume. Although Prime Minister Boris Johnson has previously informed that the system may be implemented from May 17, no firm dates for the reopening of the travel sector have been given.


Grant Shapps said in his statement that international travel is vital as it boosts businesses and underpins the UK economy but more than that, it brings people together, connects families who have been kept apart, and allows exploring new horizons. He mentioned that the latest framework announced will allow UK to reopen travel safely and sustainably, ensure that the hard-won achievements on the vaccine roll out is protected and a peace of mind if offered to both passengers and industry. He mentioned the UK will also play a leading role in the development of international standards around a digital travel certification system.


He further informed that the department for transport (DfT) is working across government to consider the role certification could play in facilitating outbound travel, for those countries which have systems in place. He shared that the work to develop a system that would facilitate travel certification for inbound international travel is also in progress. Shapps stated the allocation of countries will be kept under review and will respond to emerging evidence, with a particular focus on variants of concern. Restrictions will be formally reviewed on June 28 to take account of the domestic and international health picture, and to see whether current measures could be rolled back. Further formal reviews will take place at checkpoints no later than July 31 and October 1.

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