Summer holidays: What is the traffic light system and how will it work?

9 April 2021, 11:37

A new traffic light system will be introduced for international travel
A new traffic light system will be introduced for international travel. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

A traffic light system will be used for international travel as coronavirus restrictions are relaxed in the coming months. But how will it work?

The system will categorise countries based on their Covid-19 risk levels and forms part of potential plans for the return of foreign holidays.

The measure is among the recommendations of a report from the Government's Global Travel Taskforce which outlines how international travel could resume from 17 May.

By how will it work? Which countries are on which category? And how will it be decided?

What is the traffic light system?

The plans suggest people arriving home from abroad will still be subject to rules such as home quarantine and strict testing, but these will be differently applied depending on which category the country is in.

In Green destinations, arrivals will have to take a pre-departure test and another PCR test on or before day two of their return to the UK. No quarantine or additional tests will be needed unless a positive result comes back.

In Amber countries, arrivals must quarantine for 10 days, take a pre-departure test and a PCR test on day two and day eight after their return, with the option of a "test to release" on day five to end self-isolation early.

For Red destinations, travel to these countries will be restricted along the same lines as the Government's current "red list", meaning returning travellers must stay for 10 days in a quarantine hotel, as well as take a pre-departure test and a further PCR test on day two and day eight after returning.

Brits coming home from Red countries will still be made to use a quarantine hotel
Brits coming home from Red countries will still be made to use a quarantine hotel. Picture: PA Images

How will this affect travellers' plans?

Under the traffic light system, arrivals from red countries will need to book a "quarantine package" before departing on their travels.

Those coming back from amber or green destinations will also be required to book "test packages" from a Government list of approved providers before travelling.

Ministers plans to work with the travel industry and private testing providers to reduce the cost of foreign travel as they face criticism for allowing private firms to charge hundreds per person for tests.

This could include free pre-departure tests and cheaper tests when holidaymakers return.

Travellers coming into the UK from Red countries will still have to use quarantine hotels
Travellers coming into the UK from Red countries will still have to use quarantine hotels. Picture: PA Images

Which countries are going to be Green, Amber or Red?

The Government said it will set out by "early May" which countries will fall into which category, with it currently being "too early to predict" how destinations will be listed over the summer.

It will also confirm whether international travel can resume from 17 May.

It is widely expected much of Europe will not be on the Green list due to a third wave sweeping the continent, meaning holidays will be made unaffordable for many.

But reports suggest Greece, Malta and Gibraltar could be among the first countries Brits will be able to visit.

How often will restrictions be reviewed?

Factors looked at will include the proportion of their population that have been vaccinated, the rate of infection, the prevalence of variants of concern and a country's access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing.

Restrictions will be "formally reviewed" on 28 June to take account of "the domestic and international health picture and to see whether current measures could be rolled back", the Government said.

Further formal reviews will take place at "checkpoints" no later than 31 July and 1 October.