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Heathrow backs UK traffic light quarantine system in plea for summer holidays

Lucy Harley-McKeown
·3-min read
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 26: A plane arrives at Heathrow Airport on February 26, 2021 in London, England. Travellers arriving in the UK from February 15 2021 onwards from countries on the
A plane arrives at Heathrow Airport on February 26, 2021 in London, England. Travellers arriving in the UK from February 15 2021 onwards from countries on the "red list" of restrictions have had to isolate in hotels at airports at their own expense for ten days. Photo: Hollie Adams/Getty Images

Heathrow Airport has lodged proposals with the UK government's Global Travel Taskforce (GTT) to bring in a four-tier traffic light system in a bid to ease COVID-19 restrictions sooner.

Reports from several outlets on Sunday said the submission to the GTT would back hotel quarantining and tests for incoming flights from the worst-affected countries on a sliding scale.

"Green" listed countries would mean all limits are eliminated, while "amber" would mean a customised three-day quarantine and testing regime.

The Telegraph reported that an amber alert would apply over a "variant of concern" found in a country and the uncertainty it might pose to the UK's vaccine rollout.

The majority of foreign travel in and out of the UK is currently banned, however the GTT is due to report on potential new rules at the start of April. These would come into effect in accordance with the unlocking roadmap from 17 May.

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Heathrow’s CEO, John Holland-Kaye, said: “The UK’s progress in the global vaccine race coupled with advances in testing, means that ministers no longer need to choose between public health and the economy - a risk-based approach to international travel will allow us to protect them both.”

“Restarting trade and travel to key markets like the US after 17 May will be key to the government achieving its Global Britain ambitions and helping communities across the UK to level up.”

Watch: Should I book a holiday in 2021?

Heathrow is one of the world's busiest travel hubs. This year, however, it said passenger numbers plunged 89% in January compared to the same month last year, and cargo volume fell 21%, as the aviation industry suffers in Britain's latest lockdown and from tighter border controls.

A system that would allow global travel would be a welcome plan for many travel companies and airlines that have been grounded for the best part of a year.

On Wednesday, budget airline Ryanair (RYA.L) said it had expanded schedule for its summer flights, which includes 26 new routes, in hopes that travel will open up soon amid a successful vaccine rollout in the UK, even as coronavirus cases rise across Europe.

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The move came a day after it was reported that there is a chance anyone who leaves England to travel outside the country without a reasonable excuse could be hit with a £5,000 ($6,856) fine, as per new coronavirus laws that could be introduced next week and last until the end of June.

A big factor in this decision was the success of the UK's vaccination rollout. CEO Michael O'Leary said popular holiday destinations in Europe, including Greece, Spain and Portugal, were ready to welcome Brits who had received their jabs.

He also said Ryanair was making progress in issuing refunds for flights cancelled due to the pandemic, with a backlog of requests cleared and new claims being handled within 24 hours.