Recommendations include the launch of a new traffic light system and ‘green watchlist’, and the introduction of travel certification.
A framework to chart the safe return of international travel has been set out today, 9 April 2021, by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
A traffic light system, which will categorise countries based on risk alongside the restrictions required for travel, will be set up to protect the public and the vaccine rollout from international COVID-19 variants.
Key factors in the assessment will include:
- the percentage of their population that have been vaccinated
- the rate of infection
- the prevalence of variants of concern
- the country’s access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing
The report, produced by the Global Travel Taskforce, shows how international travel could resume from 17 May 2021 at the earliest, in an accessible and affordable way. This includes the removal of the permission to travel form – meaning passengers would no longer need to prove they have a valid reason to leave the country.
The UK is a global leader in genome sequencing, which in positive cases allows the identification of variants of concern.
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’.
- Green: arrivals will need to take a pre-departure test as well as a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test on or before day 2 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
- Amber: arrivals will need to quarantine for a period of 10 days and take a pre-departure test, and a PCR test on day 2 and day 8 with the option for Test to Release on day 5 to end self-isolation early
- Red: arrivals will be subject to restrictions currently in place for ‘red list’ countries which include a 10-day stay in a managed quarantine hotel, pre-departure testing and PCR testing on day 2 and 8
Testing remains an essential part of protecting public health as restrictions begin to ease – with all arrivals who are not exempt required to book a pre-departure, day 2 and day 8 test before travelling.
Arrivals travelling from ‘red list’ countries should 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 government’s approved list of providers.
Testing post-arrival remains an important tool in our wider measures to manage the risk of imported cases – allowing us to monitor positive tests and ensure people isolate, as well as identify and genomically sequence variants of concern.
The government will also work with the travel industry and private testing providers ahead of international travel reopening, to see how they can further reduce the cost of travel for the British public, while ensuring travel is as safe as possible. 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.
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. The government 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 2021.
About the Global Travel Taskforce
The taskforce is a cross-government endeavour, with the Secretary of State for Transport reporting to the Prime Minister. It involves collaboration between officials from:
- Department for Transport
- Department for Health and Social Care
- Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office
- Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
- Public Health England
- Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
- HM Treasury
- Home Office
- Department for International Trade
- Cabinet Office C-19 Taskforce
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