England sets out traffic light system in bid to revive foreign travel

Turkey, Nepal and Maldives move on to the UK's red list requiring mandatory hotel quarantine in England

British officials unveiled the details of the country's traffic light foreign travel regime on Friday, seeking to capitalise on the UK's rapid vaccination campaign.

Twelve countries or territories were included in the green light category, allowing for relatively free travel, but most were categorised as amber and there is a higher restrictions red tier.

With worries over growing threats from new variants of Covid-19, London placed three new countries in the red tier.

A spokesman for the Transport Department told The National the UAE would remain on the red list when the system goes operational.

From May 17, residents of England will be able to travel to a handful of countries without restriction, bar taking a Covid-19 test before departure and within two days of returning home or entering the country.

"I'm announcing today that from May 17 you will be able to travel to 12 green-list countries, which include Portugal, Gibraltar and Israel," Transport Minister Grant Shapps said.

Travellers returning from amber countries, which includes most of the UK's European neighbours, will be required to isolate at home for 10 days and take PCR Covid-19 tests on days two and eight. The rules apply only to England, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland administering their own systems.

Red-list status means that only UK or Irish residents can enter the country and returnees face a mandatory hotel stay costing £1,750 ($2,447).

"We are disappointed by this outcome and hope the UAE’s status will be reconsidered at the next opportunity," said Mansoor Abulhoul, the ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the UK.

There will be major implications for the European Champions League final after Turkey was placed on the red list alongside the Maldives and Nepal.

With two English teams, Chelsea and Manchester City, in the finals there will be growing pressure on UEFA to stage the clash in the UK on May 29.

"This does mean, I'm afraid, with regard to the Champions League that fans should not travel to Turkey," Mr Shapps said. "The FA, I can tell you, are in discussions with UEFA already on this and we are very open to hosting the final but it is ultimately a decision for UEFA.

"It's worth mentioning that the UK has got a successful track record of football matches with spectators, so we're well placed to do it."

Britain is using an algorithm to calculate countries' listings. After the system comes into effect on May 17, it will be reviewed every three weeks with the next announcements expected on May 28.

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The full green list is Portugal including the Azores and Madeira, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Falkland Islands, Israel, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands plus St Helena, Tristan de Cunha and Ascension Island.

The status is established by a variety of factors, such as coronavirus case rate, the quality of testing, number of vaccines administered and prevalence of virus mutations.

Mr Shapps said the system had been agreed by the chief medical officers in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland but it may take a few days before it is officially adopted by those countries.

Officials also said people who have had both doses of a coronavirus vaccine will be able to use the health service app to verify their status under the new rules.

The UAE was ranked 18th out of 59 destinations in the world for overseas staff to work and live abroad, according to a survey from global network InterNations. Getty
The UAE was ranked 18th out of 59 destinations in the world for overseas staff to work and live abroad, according to a survey from global network InterNations. Getty

UAE airport chiefs had previously said they were engaged in discussions with the British, making “very strong representations” to open travel between the two countries.

“There are countries on the green list that, we believe, haven’t taken the kind of care and number of measures like we have in Dubai to keep everyone safe,” Paul Griffiths, chief executive of Dubai International Airport, said last week.

The UAE has, alongside Britain, been a global leader in inoculation against Covid-19, with each vaccinating more than 52 per cent of its adult population.

Robert Sinclair, chief executive of London City Airport, said the announcement was the first step in opening up international travel.

“However, for the time being, extensive and expensive restrictions and requirements remain. As the vaccination programme goes from strength to strength in the UK and across Europe and we approach the main summer season, I would strongly encourage the Government to ease restrictions further, add more countries to the green list and reduce or remove the requirements for testing and quarantine, particularly for travellers who have been fully vaccinated.”

While Britain's vaccination programme is outpacing the rest of Europe, the EU has already outlined its travel plans, recommending the arrival of foreign travellers from more countries from June.

However limited Britain's green list may be, the travel industry will hope that clarity on destinations will boost bookings, and that some customers will travel to amber countries, despite the requirement for 10 days of self-isolation on return.

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Updated: May 8, 2021 02:44 AM

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