Britons can start thinking about summer holidays abroad as Global Travel Taskforce outlines UK return to travel

Apr 9, 2021

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On Friday, the Department for Transport laid out its plans for a return to travel. The Global Travel Taskforce detailed its plans for a safe return to travel, including categorising countries based on their risk level and requiring tests for all passengers.

As expected, the plans take use of a traffic light system in order to classify countries based on their risk level: red, amber or green. In a major step forward, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said that Britons can start thinking about foreign travel this summer.

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According to a report published by the Global Travel Taskforce, the government will take into account the following factors when assessing if a country should be in the green, amber or red category: the percentage of their population that has been vaccinated, the rate of infection, the prevalence of variants of concern and the country’s access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing.

Related: What does the ‘traffic light’ travel announcement mean for my summer holiday?

Of note for travellers, the government is still working with a date of 17 May for a return to international travel. It has noted, however, that the date could still be pushed back.

When travel is permitted to resume, not only will the traffic light system be in place, but the government will also remove the permission to travel form, meaning travellers will no longer need a valid reason to leave the country. However, the passenger locator form will still be a requirement, though it will be digitised and integrated in the U.K. border system for checks to take place at e-gates.

Related: Leaving England? You must now fill out a travel declaration form or face £200 fine

Let’s break down what each level of the traffic light system will mean for travellers.


Green countries are the lowest-risk countries. Travellers arriving in England from green countries will need to take a pre-departure test as well as a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test on or before day two of their arrival back in the U.K.

Notably, arrivals from green countries will not need to quarantine on their return — unless they’ve received a positive test result.

Related: Which countries could be on the UK’s green list?


Arrivals from amber countries will be required to quarantine for a period of 10 days. Additionally, they will need to take a pre-departure test, as well as a PCR test on days two and eight of their quarantine. The traveller will need to book their quarantine testing package ahead of travel.

Amber arrivals will have the option to use England’s Test to Release scheme, which allows the traveller to take a COVID-19 test after five days of quarantine. If the test returns a negative result, they can forgo the rest of their quarantine.


The red list has been in rule since earlier this year, also called the travel ban list. Arrivals in the U.K. from any of the red list countries will be subject to the same rules already in effect.

In other words, non-nationals and non-residents will not be permitted to travel to the U.K. Those who are allowed to travel to the U.K. (nationals and residents) will be required to take a pre-departure test and then undergo a 10-day quarantine in a government-approved hotel — costing at least £1,750. They will also have to take COVID-19 tests on days two and eight of their quarantine. Red arrivals will have to book their hotel quarantine package in advance of their travel.

Related: All 39 countries that are on the UK’s travel ban list

(Photo by Gilles Baechler/Getty Images)

“We will also work with the travel industry and private testing providers ahead of international travel reopening, to see how we can further reduce the cost of travel for the British public, while ensuring travel is as safe as possible,” the government said in a press release. “This could include cheaper tests being used when holidaymakers return home, as well as whether the government would be able to provide pre-departure tests.”

Notably, the government said in its announcement on Friday that it’s still too early to say which countries will be on which list. From early May, the Global Travel Taskforce plans to unveil how each country will be categorised. Also as of early May, the Global Travel Taskforce will actually confirm if travel will be permitted from 17 May.

Additionally, the government has said that it will introduce a “watchlist” for travellers to know if a country is nearing a move from one level to another. For example, a “green watchlist” will show if a country is at risk of moving from green to amber. The move will certainly help travellers to know if their holiday destination could soon move levels — a big change from summer 2020’s guessing game for travellers. However, the government has said that if data shows that it needs to act immediately, it will do so.

Related: Virgin and BA push for travel corridor with US as vaccine rollout raises hopes for summer travel

It’s worth noting that just because the U.K. has categorised a country as low, medium or high risk doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an option for holiday. It will be up to the arrival country to determine if it will alow Brits in. New Zealand, for example, has some of the lowest case rates in the world. However, there are no plans for the country to reopen its border this year.

(Photo by Michael Duva/Getty Images)

“International travel is vital – it boosts businesses and underpins the U.K. economy – but more than that, it brings people together, connects families who have been kept apart, and allows us to explore new horizons,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said. “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.”

Farther down the road, on 28 June 2021, the government will review these restrictions to see if they can be further rolled back. Another formal review will take place no later than 31 July and 1 October 2021.

While Friday’s announcement is helpful in that it provides a clearer picture of what travel will look like, we’re still waiting on a confirmation of a date for when we can travel again. Friday marked a major step forward in that Shapps said he is no longer advising people against booking summer holidays abroad. Hopefully, by early May, we’ll have a clearer indication when we can travel this summer.

“For the first time I think there is light at the end of the tunnel and we’ll be able to restart international travel, including cruises by the way, in a safe and secure way, knowing about the vaccinations, everything we know about the disease this year, and of course that abundance of caution, having the tests in place,” Shapps told BBC.

Featured photo by Loic Lagarde/Getty Images.

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