Travel traffic light system: how does three-tier system work and which countries are red, amber and green?

The UK Government has confirmed the reopening of international travel for people in England

The Westminster Government is considering the introduction of a traffic light travel system (Shutterstock)
The Westminster Government is considering the introduction of a traffic light travel system (Shutterstock)

Foreign getaway destinations have been ranked under a traffic light system, with fewer restrictions tied to the places boasting the lowest coronavirus rates and high vaccination take-up.

Countries have been graded either green, amber or red, according to how well they are coping with the pandemic.

Passengers will be required to take PCR tests before leaving and before returning sparking concerns that some holidaymakers could be priced out of travel.

Here's how the new travel traffic light system works (Credit: Kim Mogg)

The green, amber and red lists were announced on Friday 7 May by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

Here's how the traffic light system will work.

How will the travel traffic light system work?

People arriving home from abroad will still be subject to rules such as home quarantine and strict testing under the travel traffic light system, but these will be differently applied depending on the country visited:

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.

Amber destinations – 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.

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.

Why is it being introduced?

2020’s travel corridor system often resulted in chaos with holidaymakers forced to rush home with 24 hours notice in order to avoid a lengthy quarantine period.

It is hoped that a traffic light system would provide greater clarity to travellers while notifying travellers of changes to a country’s status farther in advance.

There is also a growing belief that travel abroad needs to be curbed due to a third wave of coronavirus cases sweeping across continental Europe.

Foreign holidays will now become legal in England from 17 May under the new travel system.

How will the system affect travel?

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 providers before travelling.

The Government plans to work with the travel industry and private testing providers to reduce the cost of foreign travel.

Which countries have been assigned which colour?

The government has now released its list of red, amber and green countries.

The green list is made up of twelve countries – including Portugal and Gibraltar. People in England will not have to quarantine when returning from them from 17 May.

Meanwhile, Turkey, the Maldives and Nepal have been added to the existing red list of countries, and the change comes into place from 4am on 12 May. Travellers from those destinations will have to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days on their return.

On the amber list is popular tourist destinations like France, Greece, Spain and Italy.

Countries which are not on the green list – the lightest restrictions – or the red list – the tightest rules for returning travellers – will be initially classed as amber.

The list includes the majority of Europe, as well as the US and Canada.

Travellers returning from amber list countries must be prepared to spend 10 days quarantining at home when they come back to England.

The full green, amber and red lists can be viewed on the UK Government’s website.