The UK’s Global Travel Taskforce has released its framework for a return to international travel, with recommendations that include the launch of a new traffic light system and ‘green watchlist’, and the introduction of travel certification. The traffic light system will categorise countries based on risk alongside the restrictions required for travel by assessing the percentage of their population that have been vaccinated, the rate of infection, the prevalence of variants of concern and the country’s access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing.
The traffic light system in action
As per the traffic light system, green means that arrivals will need to take a pre-departure test as well as a PCR test on or before day two of their arrival back into England but will not need to quarantine on return (unless they receive a positive result) or take any additional tests, halving the cost of tests on their return from holiday. Amber signifies that arrivals will need to quarantine for a period of 10 days and take a pre-departure test, and a PCR test on day two and day eight with the option for Test to Release on day five to end self-isolation early. And red means that 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 two and eight.
Traffic light list to be determined in early May
“It is too early to predict which countries will be on which list over the summer,” GOV.UK writes on its website, “and the government continues to consider a range of factors to inform the restrictions placed on them. We will set out by early May which countries will fall into which category, as well as confirming whether international travel can resume from 17 May 2021.”
Many have been quick to commend the Global Travel Taskforce’s new announcement, among them Katie Crowe, Director of Communications for UK travel insurer battleface. She said: “The UK government’s new international travel framework for England has provided a strong commitment to restarting international travel. It comes as millions of people in the UK are considering going on holiday abroad or to visit family and friends for the first time since early last year when the country went into lockdown.”
Destinations need to be reviewed frequently, says ABTA
Meanwhile, The Travel Association, ABTA, has welcomed what it calls the UK’s ‘ambitious but imperfect’ new report on travel. “The travel industry now has a much-needed framework for the restart of international travel, and it is good to see government maintain its ambition for overseas travel to start from 17 May if the circumstances allow,” said ABTA’s Chief Executive Mark Tanzer. "While the framework isn’t perfect – the requirement for a PCR test when you arrive back from a green list country could prove a cost-barrier for many people – we welcome the fact the government commits to engaging with industry on this issue."
Tanzer went on to say that ‘small changes’ such as requiring a PCR test only if the individual gets a positive result from a lateral flow test, would make international travel more accessible and affordable, and added that the government should also consider whether those who have been vaccinated can be exempt from testing requirements, ‘should scientific evidence suggest reduced transmissibility’.
In addition, Tanzer noted that it was vital that the government was proactive with regards to reviewing any restrictions placed on travel and destinations, especially as the summer presented a ‘small window’ of opportunity for many travel companies and destinations to recoup lost revenue. “Closing off destinations unnecessarily will significantly affect the industry’s opportunity to recover this summer,” he warned.
Spain concerned over a lack of clarity
ABTA is not the only body with concerns over the Taskforce’s new plans. In Spain, Andalucia’s Tourism Minister Juan Marin has noted that the country is ‘saddened to hear that major airlines such as Jet2 have taken the difficult decision to postpone their operations given the lack of clarity around likely start dates or requirements’. He continued: “While the announcement of the Global Travel Taskforce’s framework for restart highlights a route out of the pandemic and back to international travel, we are still concerned at the lack of certainty surrounding summer holidays.
“We would like to re-emphasise that Andalucía is a safe destination, ready to receive visitors with a series of measures in place including our international travel insurance for Andalucía.”
Indeed, Andalucía launched a travel insurance offering for visitors travelling to the region in 2021. The country teamed up with Europ Assistance Spain to provide a travel assistance policy for inbound travellers, hoping to help provide peace of mind of tourists visiting the region while creating an extra incentive for them to choose this destination.