UK to Introduce ‘Traffic Light’ System for International Travel

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The UK government has announced that it will introduce a ‘traffic light’ system to allow non-essential international travel to safely resume amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. A government spokesperson said that the system “will help ensure the UK’s vaccine progress isn’t jeopardized and provide clear guidance for travelers”.

The United Kingdom currently designates most foreign travel destinations as either ‘amber’ or ‘red’ for risk of COVID-19. Passengers arriving from an ‘amber’ destination are permitted to enter the UK if they self-isolate for 10 days on arrival.

All arrivals from ‘red’ high-risk countries are required to undergo quarantine at a government-designated hotel, with the exception of UK residents. However, all passengers arriving in Scotland must currently undertake managed quarantine at a hotel, with only a few exceptions.

These rules will continue under the new ‘traffic light’ system, but a new ‘green’ category will be introduced that will not require travelers to quarantine unless they have tested positive for coronavirus. A COVID-19 test will need to be taken before traveling to the UK and then again on arrival.

Countries designated as ‘green’ will be lower risk destinations that have already achieved a high rate of vaccinations and have a lower infection rate and absence of new variants of COVID-19. The traffic light system countries list has not yet been finalized, but the UK government has said that “countries will move between the red, amber, and green lists depending on the data”.

When Foreign Holidays from the UK Will Be Possible

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has expressed his hope that residents of England will be able to enjoy international holidays from May 17th at the earliest. He has promised to give the aviation sector the necessary 3 weeks’ notice to scale up flight operations in anticipation of the opening of the country’s borders.

A date has not yet been set for the reopening of international travel from Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. However, the Scottish government has stated that “we are certain that this won’t be possible before 17 May and maybe for some time after.”

Additionally, UK Health Minister Edward Argar has urged caution at lifting restrictions too quickly, saying, “One of the things we don’t want to see — and just as the vaccination programme is working so well — is getting new variants or risking new variants getting imported into this country”.

Nevertheless, the UK government has already announced that it will allow domestic holidays within England from April 12th, for single households and bubbles staying in campsites that do not share facilities or in self-contained accommodation. Non-essential domestic travel within Scotland is also expected to resume from April 26th.

Will a Vaccine Passport Be Required to Travel Abroad from the UK?

Boris Johnson has said that a UK “Covid Status Certification”  or vaccine passport is likely to be “part of the way people deal” with international travel. It would likely function in a similar way to the digital green certificate proposed for the European Union.

However, Johnson also emphasized that any such vaccine passport approved by the UK would also need to allow for a negative COVID-19 test to be accepted as certification in addition to vaccination. He stressed this was necessary to avoid the numerous “practical and ethical” issues involved with vaccination.

Health Minister Argar echoed Johnson’s statements, saying that “practical, ethical and fairness considerations” needed to be taken into account before a vaccine passport for international travel could be approved. Nevertheless, he also suggested that the UK government is considering implementing a domestic green pass similar to Israel’s green passport, which could “speed up our reopening of the country”.

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