Last Friday, my colleague the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps MP, announced the first steps towards unlocking international travel and a summer in which we can reunite family and friends, explore new places and start looking outwards. As my colleague said, travel is what truly “brings people together”.
Having spoken to constituents eager to be able to travel once again, as well as business owners in the travel and aviation sectors, I hope this comes as really positive news as we can look forward to the exciting return of overseas travel and getting our domestic and overseas tourism back up to pre-Covid levels. However, it is important we remain cautious, and it should also be noted that we recently saw the highest number of global Covid-19 cases in a week since the pandemic began. This is why carefully unlocking overseas travel is so vital.
The Global Travel Taskforce came up with the traffic light system to assign to every country, based on their number of cases, infection rates and a number of other factors, to ensure we can stop dangerous variants and high levels of cases arriving in our country. This system is as follows:
- Green List – people returning from these countries will have to take a test before they return to the UK and one on day two after they return – but will not have to quarantine.
- Amber List – people returning must quarantine for 10 days once you return to the UK.
- Red List – UK/Irish residents or nationals returning must immediately quarantine in a Government-approved hotel for 10 days. Travellers from “Red List” countries who are not UK or Irish residents or nationals are banned from entering England.
I want to outline the 12 countries on the Green List, as well as some of the key countries on the Amber and Red Lists:
- Portugal (inc Azores and Madeira), Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Israel, Singapore, Brunei, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, St Helena, Tristan de Cunha, Ascension Island
- France, Spain, Greece, Italy, the vast majority of Europe, as well as Canada and the US. All other countries not on the Green List above, or on the Red List (link below), will be on the amber list.
- Brazil, India, South Africa, Pakistan, Argentina, Turkey. (Full list can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/transport-measures-to-protect-the-uk-from-variant-strains-of-covid-19)
We’ll be reviewing this list every 3 weeks as the signs continue to become more promising overseas as international vaccine roll-outs continue at pace. As the summer progresses, we hope we can unlock access to more countries, while green list countries with rising case numbers will be put on a watch list.
I want to add that there will be a few unfamiliar measures in place at the border when entering the UK, which include:
- Additional health checks, which will mean it takes longer to enter the UK
- It currently takes a Border Force officer 5-10 minutes to take the necessary checks - compared to about 25 seconds normally
- People without the correct paperwork take considerably longer
- Officers have to manually check people have had a negative test within the past 72 hours and also have ordered all the correct tests, as well as passenger locator forms being checked
- The passenger locator form will be digitised so people can use e-gates
- Border Force officers will be increased at desks
I know how frustrating this will be to those arriving back in the UK after a long, weary flight, but these steps are in place to protect us from variants of concern entering our country, and to ensure we don’t undo all the good work we have all done over the past year to get these cases down. This is not a permanent solution but it is in place for the time being and I look forward to the day when travelling, along with the rest of society, returns to the normality we were accustomed to before the pandemic.
I wanted to finish by reminding everyone that, when booking a holiday and flights, remember to ensure you can refund any tickets you buy, in case of Covid-related cancellations.