Effective 17th May, the UK government is withdrawing its blanket ban on non-essential overseas travel and replacing it with a travel traffic light system.
The following information is correct as of 20th May 2021 but subject to change at any time.
Understanding the different colour designations
No more than 72 hours before returning to the UK, travellers will need to take a pre-departure Covid test at their travel destination. They will also need to complete an online Passenger Locator form within 48 hours of the flight. On their return, passengers will then need to take a PCR Covid test on or before Day 2 of their arrival back into England. There are then no further requirements regards quarantine or Covid testing.
Travellers returning from a destination designated as Amber will need to follow the same guidelines detailed above. However, on returning to the UK, travellers will need to quarantine at home for 10 days and take PCR Covid tests on both days 2 & 8. Alternately, it is possible to take an additional Test & Release PCR test on Day 5 to end self-isolation early.
Travellers returning from a destination designated as Red will need to follow the same guidelines as for destinations listed as Green or Amber. However, on returning to the UK, travellers will need to isolate at a government mandated quarantine hotel for 10 days, at a cost of £1750 per person, as well as taking PCR Covid tests on Days 2 & 8.
Please note that the required PCR tests on arrival back into the UK must be booked before you depart on holiday and the details entered into your Passenger Locator Form.
How does the UK government decide on which countries are Green, Amber & Red
As per the UK’s Global Travel Taskforce report, the following criteria are the most important factors in determining the colour designation of a specific destination.
- The percentage of their population that have received a Covid vaccination
- The rate of infection in the applicable destination
- The prevalence of variants of concern of Covid
- The country’s access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing
How often will the travel travel lights change?
The government have advised that the individual designations will be constantly reviewed and can change at any time – the example of India shows how quickly the situation can change.
However, for the most part, any changes will be made every 3 weeks. With the initial announcement set for Friday 7th May, that means further updates will follow on 28th May, 18th June, 9th July etc.
Countries that are designated as Green, but which are moving the wrong way in terms of Covid cases etc, will be placed on a ‘Green Watchlist’. This is meant as an indicator that the destination is at risk of switching from Green to Amber. It is not however a guarantee.
What does all this mean for travel
The first point to make is that the traffic light system relates to travel from and to England. Variations may apply for residents of Wales, Scotland & Northern Ireland.
Just because the Department of Health in England, Scotland etc designates a destination as Green doesn’t mean that you will immediately be able to jump on a plane – many countries will chose to bar UK visitors for quite some time.
Even if countries permit travel from the UK, they may have their own Covid restrictions and laws in addition to those imposed by the UK, ie you may need to take a PCR Covid test before travel to your intended destination and / or take a test on arrival.
You may also wish to check out our more recent feature on Virgin Atlantic Covid tests.
Where do our featured destinations stand in terms of the travel traffic light system?
Cuba – Cuba is currently designated as Amber. Towards the latter half of 2021, we expect it to move to Green.
Guatemala – Guatemala is currently designated as Amber and we expect it to remain so for the rest of 2021. As there are no direct flights between the UK & Guatemala, travellers will also need to take into account the travel traffic light designation of wherever one flies via (generally the US).
Mexico – Mexico is currently designated as Amber and we expect it to remain so for the rest of 2021 before, hopefully, transitioning to Green in early 2022.
Confused or unclear on any aspect of the new travel traffic light system or regulations? Simply drop us an email on email@example.com or give us a call on 01580 764796.