Traffic light to travel: Britain ready to allow summer trips to vaccine hot spots

Travellers from green-list countries set to be exempt from quarantine

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 16: Two women wearing protective masks walk through departures at terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport on March 16, 2020 in London, England. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to gather pace, travel companies and airlines have seen a slump in demand, forcing them to lay off staff and cut flights. British Airways owner IAG has announced that it will cut capacity by around 75% over coming months as the company fights heavy losses in demand. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
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Britain could resume travel to countries with low coronavirus cases and high vaccination rates under a new traffic-light system.

Ministers discussed the scheme on Thursday night ahead of an announcement by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday when he will set out the government’s plans for international travel.

The proposed scheme came as dozens of British MPs reacted with anger at plans to launch a series of pilot tests within weeks for Covid passports in England.

The FA Cup final and World Snooker Championship were reported to be among the events included in pilot trials.

Up to 70 MPs, including former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, signed a pledge vowing to oppose the "divisive and discriminatory" scheme.

For international travel, countries will be graded either red, amber or green, according to how well they are handling the pandemic.

The scheme is similar to a proposal by Heathrow Airport to scrap home and hotel quarantine for travellers coming from low-risk countries.

Under the traffic-light system, travel to and from red-list countries will be banned, while those returning from amber countries will have to quarantine for up to 10 days.

Passengers arriving from green-listed nations will be exempt from quarantine.

A Whitehall source told The National: "We will make the announcement on the methodology of the traffic light system on Monday. But we will not be listing countries."

Destinations such as the US and Israel, which currently have high inoculation rates, could be deemed less risky than Europe, where the vaccine drive is struggling to gather pace.

Ministers are reluctant to open all inbound travel for at least another year, The Times said.

Under the government’s road map out of lockdown, international tourism is scheduled to resume from May 17.

However, ministers suggested the lifting of the ban on foreign travel may be delayed until July, with Mr Johnson expected to highlight the risk of new variants of the virus being imported to the UK.

Ministers on Thursday also decided against adding European nations to the red list of travel ban countries.

Mr Johnson previously suggested the UK would not hesitate in adding France to the red list after scientists said the variant first identified in South Africa was spreading across the continent.

The Philippines, Pakistan, Kenya and Bangladesh were added to the list, with travellers required to enter hotel quarantine from 4am on April 9.

"So far, surveillance has found that few cases of the SA variant have been identified as being imported from Europe, with most coming from other parts of the world," a government statement said.

Thirty-nine countries are now on the red list – including the UAE, southern African nations and all of South America. Returning travellers are required to quarantine for 11 days in a hotel at a cost of up to £1,750 ($2,414) per person.

Scientists this week said the ban on international travel should remain.

Dame Anne Johnson, professor of epidemiology at University College London, said the importation of new coronavirus variants is “one of the biggest risks” facing the UK.

“This is a risk where you’ve got high rates of infection. I’m for staycations,” she told the BBC.

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