COVID-19: What will travel to a ‘green list’ country look like? This is how the new traffic light system will work

A traffic light system that will categorise countries based on their COVID-19 risk levels is part of plans to safely restart foreign holidays.

The approach has been recommended by the government’s Global Travel Taskforce, which has been working on how all international travel can resume since the publication of Boris Johnson’s roadmap for lifting lockdown restrictions.

Under the prime minister’s roadmap, foreign travel – apart from the limited current exemptions – will not be allowed any earlier than 17 May.

Here is how the traffic light system will work:

Green countries

• People arriving in the UK from "green list" countries will need to take a pre-departure test in that country

• On or before the second day after arriving in the UK, they will need to take a PCR test purchased from a private provider, which costs around £120

• They will not need to quarantine on their return unless they receive a positive test

• Test packages must be booked and paid for before travelling from a list of government-approved providers.

Amber countries

• People arriving from "amber list" countries will have to quarantine for 10 days at home (day zero is the day you arrive)

• They will have to take a pre-departure test, then a PCR test on days two and eight, bought from a private provider

• Travellers will be given a unique reference number after buying the tests that they have to put on their passenger locator form before they travel to the UK

• There will be an option for "test to release" in which they can end self-isolation early if they test negative on day five, as well as day two, by purchasing an extra PCR test

• Test packages must be booked and paid for before travelling from a list of government-approved providers.

Red countries

• Arrivals from the "red list" will have to quarantine for 10 days in a specific quarantine hotel at a cost of £1,750

• They will have to take a pre-departure test then PCR tests on day two and day eight

• Passengers must book and agree to pay for a quarantine package before departing for the UK.

Green watchlist

• This will identify countries most at risk of moving from green to amber so travellers have some warning

• However, the government "will not hesitate to act immediately should the data show that countries’ risk ratings have changed".

How the list will be decided

• Countries in each category will be kept under review and the government will respond to data, focusing on variants of concern

• Vaccination rates, infection rates, the prevalence of variants, a country’s genomic sequencing capacity and access to reliable scientific information will be taken into account

• The restrictions will be formally reviewed on 28 June to see whether the measures could be relaxed, followed by reviews "no later than 31 July and 1 October".

What the government is still looking into

• Ministers have said they will work with the travel industry and private test providers to "drive down costs" of foreign travel "while ensuring it is as safe as possible"

• This could include eliminating the need for more expensive PCR tests for when passengers return home and replacing them with rapid, Lateral Flow ones (LFTs), which the government could provide for free

• Passengers could also be given free packs of rapid tests, like the ones currently being offered by some pharmacies, local authorities and by post, before they leave the country to do on their return

• Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has confirmed to Sky News that an NHS app will be used as a COVID passport for travel abroad. This will allow Britons to demonstrate whether they have had a COVID jab, or tested negative for the virus, if they are required to do so when arriving in other countries.

Passenger locator forms

• The form – where arrivals must fill in their travel details, UK address, passport details, COVID test booking reference numbers and quarantine hotel invoice (if needed) – will be digitised "by autumn 2021"

Stricter rules for airlines breaching consumer rights

• The Civil Aviation Authority will be given additional enforcement power to act on airlines that have breached consumer rights

• A COVID-19 charter will be introduced from 17 May, setting out what is required of passengers and what their rights are while the measures are in place.

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