Will the traffic light system soon be scrapped?

By Louise Longman
Home » Will the traffic light system soon be scrapped?

Speculation is mounting that the traffic light system could be scrapped under plans being drawn up by ministers to simplify holidays.

A report in The Telegraph says the traffic light system is likely to be scrapped in favour of rules based on travellers’ Covid vaccination status.

This could mean amber and green will disappear as separate categories, although red will continue with travellers still required to quarantine in hotels on returning from high-risk destinations.

Double-jabbed holidaymakers can already travel to amber countries without having to quarantine on their return after the Government ditched the requirement to self-isolate.

It means that for fully-vaccinated travellers, visiting amber or green countries is exactly the same, requiring only pre-departure tests and then a PCR test within two days of returning to the UK.

The proposed new two-tier system is only likely to have an impact on those who are not vaccinated. It is not clear however whether they would be required to continue to quarantine or face a more intensive testing regime on returning to the UK.

The rethink of the traffic light system has been triggered by the Government’s promise to review it by Oct 1 when it was originally unveiled earlier this year.

It also coincides with the completion of the vaccination rollout with all adults aged 18 and over offered both their jabs by the end of September.

Tory MPs and the travel industry have criticised the system’s increasing complexity with ‘watch’ list categories for countries at risk of moving up a tier and ‘amber plus’ which briefly required travellers to France to quarantine on return to the UK irrespective of their vaccination status.

A simplification to create a leaner high-risk and low-risk classification for countries would bring the UK more in line with other countries – and focus travel on the vaccination status of the holidaymaker.

The change is likely to be backed by industry.

British Airways Chief Executive Sean Doyle said on Tuesday that the traffic light system was ‘not fit for purpose’.

“It needs to be simplified. It needs to be adapted in the same way that we see in Europe and in the US,” he said.

It is thought unlikely that the Government will ditch PCR tests for all arrivals, which can add £300 to a holiday for a family of four, although there is growing pressure from Tory MPs and the travel industry to replace them with cheaper lateral flow tests.

Ministers are also considering lifting quarantine for vaccinated travellers from countries such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand if they turn amber. The changes were introduced for EU and US double-jabbed travellers last month.

A Government spokesperson said: “Our international travel policy is guided by one overwhelming priority – protecting public health. 

“Decisions on our traffic light system are kept under regular review and are informed by the latest risk assessment from the Joint Biosecurity Centre and wider public health factors. The next formal checkpoint review will take place by Oct 1 2021.”

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