UK Releases Proposed Traffic Light System For International Travel


The UK (England other parts may join) on Friday released a framework that could be used to reopen international travel from May 17, 2021, at the earliest. Leisure travel out of the UK is banned at the moment.

The plan in 2020 was all about Travel Corridors, but the emphasis in 2021 among many countries is a Traffic Light system of Green, Yellow, and Amber.

You can access the UK page for Covid-19 and travel here.

Here’s the proposed Traffic Light system:

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

Testing remains an essential part of protecting public health as restrictions begin to ease – with all arrivals who are not exempt required to book a pre-departure, day 2 and day 8 test before travelling.

Arrivals travelling from ‘red list’ countries should book a quarantine package before departure, and arrivals from ‘amber’ and ‘green’ countries will be required to book test packages before travelling from one of the government’s approved list of providers.

  • Global Travel Taskforce sets out approach to safely restarting international travel
  • recommendations include launch of a new traffic light system and ‘green watchlist’, and the introduction of travel certification
  • government’s priority remains to protect the public and the vaccine rollout from international coronavirus (COVID-19) variants of concern

A framework to chart the safe return of international travel has been set out today (9 April 2021) by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

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.

Key factors in the assessment will include:

  • 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 and genomic sequencing

Here’s the full report:

Download (PDF, 716KB)

And annexes:

Download (PDF, 536KB)


Even vaccinated travelers or those who have previously had Covid-19 would need to do a pre-departure test even when returning from so-called GREEN countries.

If you are coming from an AMBER one, there is mandatory 10-day self-isolation with the possibility of using test-to-release on day 5.

Dare you to return from a RED country; you must quarantine at a government-mandated hotel for 10 nights.

I would assume that most of Europe are either Amber or Red when the travel is again allowed, meaning self-isolation or mandatory hotel quarantine with PCR-RT tests.

And you have to keep in mind that even if the UK would allow outbound travel, not all countries are welcoming travelers from England and the regions.

Also, transit points, on non-direct flights, and airlines may have their own testing requirements. It is an utter mess and will be for most of 2021.

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