When can I travel abroad? Date foreign holidays from UK may be allowed - and traffic light system explained

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International travel is expected to require PCR tests and holidaymakers may still be subject to some Covid restrictions, even when visiting green list countries

The possibility of foreign holidays this summer has been fresh hope as the UK government considers introducing a traffic light system to allow safe travel.

The measure is among the recommendations of a report from the government’s Global Travel Taskforce, which outlines how international travel could resume later this year.

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Here’s what has been said about the plans, and what the rules might be across the UK.

The PM is expected to give the green light to holidays abroad in England from 17 May (Photo: Shutterstock)The PM is expected to give the green light to holidays abroad in England from 17 May (Photo: Shutterstock)
The PM is expected to give the green light to holidays abroad in England from 17 May (Photo: Shutterstock)

When can I go on holiday?

It is currently illegal to travel abroad for holidays and other leisure purposes in the UK, with foreign trips only permitted if it is essential, such as for work purposes.

Current legislation means that people living in England and Wales risk being issued with a £5,000 fine for breaking the rules.

The UK government has said that international travel could resume from 17 May at the earliest in England, although the Department for Transport (DfT) has yet to confirm that holidays will definitely be allowed from this date.

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In Scotland, it is currently illegal to travel abroad for holidays and other leisure purposes. The Scottish government has said that foreign travel will not be possible before 17 May and maybe for some time after.

In Wales, First Minister Mark Drakeford has warned that foreign holidays should not go ahead from 17 May, and has not yet set a date for allowing international travel.

In Northern Ireland it is illegal to travel outside the Common Travel Area (UK, Republic of Ireland (ROI), Isle of Man and Channel Islands), unless you have a legally permitted reason to do so.

Northern Ireland is yet to confirm its plans for holidays and travel, but chief medical office Dr Michael McBride has said it would be “premature” to book a foreign summer trip.

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How will the traffic light system work?

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has confirmed that a traffic light system will be used in England to categorise countries based on risk.

The traffic light system will rate countries using a colour coded system, labelling destinations as either red, amber or green.

The government’s Global Travel Taskforce has said that people arriving home from abroad would still be subject to rules such as home quarantine and strict testing, but these will be differently applied depending on the country visited.

The traffic light system will work as follows:

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.

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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.

Details of the requirements of the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have yet to be announced.

Which countries could be on the green list?

Mr Shapps said that the colour coding of countries will be announced "in early May", and will be based on:

- vaccinations

- infection rates

- how common Covid variants of concern are

- testing and sequencing capacity

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There will be a "green watchlist", to give people notice if a country is about to move to amber, or red.

Officials have said it is still too early to predict which countries would be on which list and are continuing to advise against booking summer holidays abroad.

Any restrictions that may be in place for overseas travel could see Brits choose to sun international travel in favour of a domestic holiday, with scientific experts recommending that staycations should be encouraged over foreign trips this year.

Hesitancy towards the Covid-19 vaccine across parts of mainland Europe could see many popular tourist destinations avoided by UK holidaymakers this year, with much of Europe expected to be added to the red list.

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However, the US, Israel, Dubai, Malta and the Caribbean are more likely to be included on the green list, according to reports, as vaccinations rates are good in these countries, meaning they are deemed less high-risk.