Traffic light system confirmed for travel but no date given for holidays resuming

9 April 2021, 07:48 | Updated: 13 April 2021, 05:21

The government has refused to confirm whether foreign holidays will be allowed from 17 May
The government has refused to confirm whether foreign holidays will be allowed from 17 May. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A traffic light system will be used for international travel but there is still no confirmed date for the return of foreign holidays, the government has announced.

The Department for Transport (DfT) refused to confirm whether Brits would be allowed to go abroad for their holidays from 17 May or which destinations people can visit without self-isolating upon return.

On Friday, while announcing the findings of the Global Travel Taskforce, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed the government will use a traffic light system for foreign travel.

The policy will categorise countries based on a number of factors relating to their coronavirus risk.

Mr Shapps also said ministers will work with the travel sector and providers of private tests to reduce the cost of trips overseas.

Free pre-departure tests could be introduced, along with cheaper tests when holidaymakers return.

Read more: No date for return of foreign travel but traffic light system confirmed

Explained: What is the new traffic light system for holidays abroad?

The DfT said in a statement: "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 17 May."

Assessments for the system will be based on a range of factors: the proportion of a country's population which has been vaccinated, rates of infection, emerging new variants and the country's access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing.

These are the rules for each category:

  • Green: There is no need to self-isolate. Take a pre-departure test and a PCR test on day two of your arrival in the UK.
  • Amber: Self-isolate for 10 days, unless you receive a negative result from a test taken at least five days after arrival. Take a pre-departure test, and PCR tests on day two and day eight of your arrival in the UK.
  • Red: Spend 11 days in a quarantine hotel. Take a pre-departure test, and PCR tests on day two and day eight of your arrival in the UK.

Read more: Boris Johnson to unveil 'traffic light' rating system for foreign trips

Watch: Virologist 'very worried' about travel resuming with 'confusing' traffic light system

The categorisation of countries will be "kept under review" with a "particular focus on variants of concern", the DfT said.

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 department added.

Further reviews will take place no later than 31 July and 1 October.

A "Green Watchlist" will be introduced to identify countries most at risk of moving from "green" to "amber".

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, the industry body representing UK-registered carriers, said the framework "does not represent a reopening of travel as promised by ministers".

He went on: "The insistence on expensive and unnecessary PCR testing rather than rapid testing - even for low-risk countries - will pose an unsustainable burden on passengers, making travel unviable and unaffordable for many people."

Karen Dee, boss of the Airport Operators Association, claimed the announcement "offers only a glimmer of hope to an industry battered by more than a year of near-complete shutdown".

She said: "Transparent criteria for countries in each travel tier and an indicative green list along with a firm commitment to reopening on 17 May would boost consumer confidence and we urge the government to publish these shortly."

The government announced plans to digitise the Passenger Locator Form to enable checks to take place at e-gates by autumn 2021.

It also revealed the Civil Aviation Authority will be given additional enforcement powers to act on airlines that breach consumer rights, after many passengers struggled to obtain refunds when flights were grounded.

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: "The government is making the right moves to help the sector restart successfully in May but we still need to see rapid lateral flow tests introduced at home for those returning from 'green' countries.

"This would bring down costs substantially and then restore confidence to book. At present, there are still too many layers of complexity to travel for those simply wanting a well-earned break in a safe country."