Covid: travel traffic light system unveiled - but ‘too early to predict’ which countries will be on green list

The Government has refused to confirm whether foreign holidays will be permitted from May 17 but will introduce a travel traffic light system.

A travel traffic light system will be introduced to categorise countries based on risk but the Government has refused to confirm whether foreign holidays will be permitted from May 17.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he would work with the travel industry and private testing providers to reduce the cost of foreign trips.

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

A travel traffic light system will be introduced to categorise countries based on risk

‘Too early to predict which countries will be on the list’

The Department for Transport 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."

How the traffic light system would work

Under the traffic light system, assessments will be based on a range of factors, including 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.

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

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", the department added.

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

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

How the travel industry reacted

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."