The United Kingdom’s Global Travel Taskforce has set out plans to safely resume international travel, including plans for a new traffic light ranking system, a “green watch list” and the introduction of a new travel certification system.

The Global Travel Taskforce’s report on the safe return of international travel suggests travel could resume as soon as May 17, 2021. While testing and quarantine measures would remain in place, passengers would no longer need to prove they have a valid reason to leave the country. Currently, international travel is only permitted where you have a reasonable excuse to leave the U.K., such as essential work or business reasons where it is not reasonably possible to complete that work within the U.K.

The permission to travel form would be eliminated, but other measures would be taken to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Traffic Light System.

The traffic light system would categorize countries as “green,” “amber” or “red” based on their risk for spreading COVID-19. Officials would consider factors such as (1) the percentage of the country’s population that has been vaccinated, (2) the country’s rate of infection, (3) the prevalence of variants of concern in the country and (4) the country’s access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing.

Quarantine and testing measures would remain in place for all travelers entering the United Kingdom, but would apply differently as follows:

  • Green. Arrivals from green countries would need to take a COVID-19 test before departing for the U.K. and a PCR test on or before their second day in the U.K. They would not need to quarantine unless they receive a positive test result.
  • Amber. Arrivals from amber countries would need to quarantine for 10 days upon arrival. They would also be required to take a pre-departure test and PCR tests on their second and eighth days in the U.K. They would be eligible for the Test to Release program and could cut their quarantine period short by testing negative on their fifth day in the U.K.
  • Red. Arrivals from red countries would have to follow restrictions currently in place for “red list” countries, including a 10-day hotel quarantine, pre-departure testing and PCR testing on the second and eighth day in the U.K.

“Green Watchlist.” U.K. officials plan to introduce a “green watchlist” of countries that are at risk of moving from “green” to “amber.” This would give passengers more predictability about which protocol they would be subject to upon returning to the U.K. Officials stress, however, that while the watchlist would help warn travelers of potential changes, they would not hesitate to move countries into different categories immediately if necessary. The watchlist nonetheless aims to provide “greater assurance” for those wishing to travel abroad.

Travel Certification. Officials said the U.K. would play a leading role in developing international standards for a digital travel certification program. Such a program could facilitate both inbound travel and outbound travel to countries that have their own travel certification programs in place.

Analysis & Comments: The resumption of international travel and the elimination of the requirement that people provide a valid reason to leave the U.K. are certainly welcome developments, not just for business travelers but also for those wishing to travel internationally for leisure purposes. Travelers should note, however, that May 17 remains an ambitious target date, and officials stress that this is the earliest possible date for international travel to resume. Restrictions will also be formally reviewed on June 28, taking into account the international COVID-19 health picture at that point in time. Measures may be relaxed or tightened at that point in time. Further formal reviews will also take place over the course of the next six months. Additional information is expected in the coming weeks and Deloitte will provide further updates in due course.

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