The government’s Global Travel Taskforce has announced that international travel from London and the rest of the UK could resume from 17 May at the earliest.
Details of which destinations will be permitted will be given in “early May”, and the list will be updated regularly.
At present, it is illegal for UK citizens to leave the country unless they have a valid reason to do so – and going on holiday is not one of them.
A traffic light system will be used to show the risks associated with each country, and the associated restrictions designed to keep new variants of Covid out of the UK.
Countries will be assessed with reference to:
the percentage of their population that have been vaccinated
the rate of infection
the prevalence of variants of concern
the country’s access to reliable scientific data.
The green-amber-red system will work as follows:
Green: arrivals will need to take a pre-departure test (while abroad) as well as a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test on or before day 2 of their arrival back into the UK, but will not need to quarantine on return unless they receive a positive result. They will also not need to take any additional tests.
Amber: arrivals will need to quarantine for a period of 10 days and take a pre-departure test while still abroad, and a PCR test on day 2 and day 8 of their return, with the option for Test to Release on day 5 to end self-isolation early.
Red: arrivals will be subject to restrictions currently in place for ‘red list’ countries which include a 10-day stay in a managed quarantine hotel, pre-departure testing and PCR testing on day 2 and 8.
The government acknowledges that countries will move from one colour to another and says it will provide as much notice as possible when changes are made.
As part of this effort, a ‘green watchlist’ will be introduced to help identify countries most at risk of moving from ‘green’ to ‘amber’.
The overall situation will be reviewed on 28 June to see whether current measures could be rolled back. Further formal reviews will take place at checkpoints no later than 31 July and 1 October 2021.
The lack of certainty and detail in the government announcement has angered many in the travel sector. Leeds based tour operator Jet2, for example, has used its Twitter account to state that it has extended the suspension of flights and holidays up to and including 23 June.
From 23 April at 4am, India will be added to the red list, the government has said. International travellers who have been in or through India (or any of the countries listed) in the previous 10 days will be refused entry to the UK. British or Irish nationals, or those with residence rights in the UK, will be able to enter the UK but will be required to book and stay in an official quarantine hotel.