The United Kingdom has released a proposed ‘Traffic Light’ system for the resumption of international travel, which could see English travelers resuming holidays from 17th May.

Under the system, countries would be sorted into green, amber, and red lists; with each having varying rules for testing and quarantining for returning travelers. The following restrictions will apply:

  • Green: Arrivals will need to take a pre-departure test, in addition to a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, on or before day 2 of their arrival back into the UK; there will be no need to quarantine upon 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, then 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

At this point, it is too early to say which countries will be in the green category over summer. These decisions “will be driven by the data and evidence at the time”. The UK Government’s Global Travel Taskforce, who developed the proposal, will advise of further arrangements in early May.

Key factors in the assessment of countries’ risk will include:

  • The percentage of the country’s population that has been vaccinated
  • The rate of infection
  • The prevalence of variants of concern
  • The country’s access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing

Irrespective of being vaccinated or not, all travelers returning from even ‘green list’ countries will still need to submit to a COVID-19 PCR test; this is expected to cost about £150-£250, to be conducted and paid for upon arrival in the UK.