UK Releases Framework for International Travel Restart

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The UK’s Global Travel Taskforce on Friday set out approach to safely restarting international travel with recommendations that include the launch of a new traffic light system, a ‘green watchlist’, and the introduction of a digital travel certification system.

“The framework announced today will help allow us to reopen travel safely and sustainably, ensure we protect our hard-won achievements on the vaccine roll out, and offer peace of mind to both passengers and industry as we begin to take trips abroad once again,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said.

According to the Global Travel Taskforce, international travel could resume from May 17 at the earliest, “in an accessible and affordable way”. This includes the removal of the “permission to travel” form – meaning passengers would no longer need to prove they have a valid reason to leave the country.

Traffic light system

Photo source: Heathrow Airport

Photo source: Heathrow Airport

As already announced, a traffic light system, which will categorise countries based on risk alongside the restrictions required for travel, will be set up to protect the public and the vaccine rollout from international COVID-19 variants.

Restrictions for inbound passengers, such as 10-day managed quarantine, home quarantine, and stringent testing will remain in place – but will apply to people differently depending on whether the destination visited is categorised as ‘green’, ‘amber’ or ‘red’.

Green: arrivals will need to take a pre-departure test 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) or take any additional tests, halving the cost of tests on their return from holiday
Amber: arrivals will need to quarantine for a period of 10 days and take a pre-departure test, and a PCR test on day 2 and day 8 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 Global Travel Taskforce said it is “too early” to predict which countries will be on which list over the summer and aims to set out by early May which countries will fall into which category, as well as confirming whether international travel can resume from May 17.

Digital travel certification

The Global Travel Taskforce confirmed that the UK will “play a leading role” in the development of international standards around a digital travel certification system.

“The Department for Transport (DfT) is working across government to consider the role certification could play in facilitating outbound travel, for those countries which have systems in place. Work also continues to develop a system that would facilitate travel certification for inbound international travel.”

‘Green watchlist’

Moreover, to give passengers more certainty when travelling, a ‘green watchlist’ will be introduced to help identify countries most at risk of moving from ‘green’ to ‘amber’. The watchlist will provide greater assurance for those who wish to travel abroad.

Photo source: Heathrow Airport

Photo source: Heathrow Airport

While the watchlist will warn travellers of potential changes in advance, the UK government will not hesitate to act immediately should the data show that countries risk ratings have changed.

The allocation of countries will be kept under review and respond to emerging evidence, with a particular focus on variants of concern.

Restrictions will be formally reviewed on June 28 to take account of the domestic and international health picture, and to see whether current measures could be rolled back. Further formal reviews will take place at checkpoints no later than July 31 and October 1.

PLF to go digital

In addition, to ensure the UK’s borders remain safe and efficient when passenger flows increase, the government has also announced plans to digitise the passenger locator form (PLF), integrating it into the UK border system and enabling checks to take place at e-gates by autumn 2021.

Aiming to further boost consumer confidence, the Global Travel Taskforce also announced that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will be given additional enforcement powers to act on airlines that have breached consumer rights – with a dedicated consultation on how to use additional tools to enforce consumer rights expected later this year.

“A COVID-19 charter will also be introduced from 17 May 2021, clearly setting out what is required of passengers and what their rights are while measures remain in place,” the Global Travel Taskforce said.