When will the traffic light system end? How long UK travel rules will be in place and when they are reviewed – iNews

People wanting to travel abroad from the UK must continue to do so under the traffic light system.

The restrictions allow people to visit green-list countries without having to quarantine upon their return. Fully vaccinated people can also visit amber-list countries without quarantining.

The rules also require people to take Covid tests before and after arriving in the UK, which is adding further costs to people’s trips.

But when could the system end, and travel return to something more resembling normality? Here’s what we know.

When will the traffic light system end?

The Government has not given any indication as to when the traffic light system could end.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said he hopes people will still “be able to go away and enjoy their breaks and not be looking over their shoulders the whole time” under the current system.

Some experts have predicted the restrictions could be scrapped in October.

Travel journalist Simon Calder said on his Travel Radio show: “I think we might see the traffic light system effectively being scrapped particularly with thankfully vaccination rates in the UK now being so high.

“It will just be assumed that everyone is vaccinated and therefore wherever you are going, perhaps with a relatively small list of places, you won’t need to quarantine.”

Paul Charles, CEO of the PC Agency, earmarked 1 October as the key date.

“The traffic light system is expected to be scrapped by 1st Oct – at last,” he tweeted. “Airlines and some of us in the sector are aware of plans to create a simpler system, where countries are either red or not. This would be the US model in effect, which I’ve been calling for.”

This means – if Mr Charles is correct – the system would essentially be reduced to two lists; green and red, with vaccination status being the key to travel.

When is the next travel update?

The traffic-light system is being reviewed every three weeks, with announcements on Wednesdays or Thursdays.

The most recent review was on Thursday 26 August, meaning the next one is expected on either 15 or 16 September.

Changes normally come into effect four days later at 4am.

The Department for Transport said: “These regular review points will allow the Government to balance helping the public to understand Covid requirements when travelling to England while allowing us to constantly evaluate the risk for different countries.”

What are the traffic light system rules?

The system is based on the following criteria:

  • The percentage of a country’s population that have been vaccinated
  • The rate of infection
  • Prevalence of variants of concern
  • The country’s access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing

There are currently four traffic light categories.

Green: Arrivals must take a pre-departure test three days before returning to the UK, as well as a PCR test on or before day two of their return. They do not have to quarantine unless their test is positive, and there is no requirement for additional tests.

Green watchlist: The same rules apply as those for the green list, but countries on this list are “at risk of moving from green to amber”, potentially without much warning.

Amber: All travellers are required to take a pre-departure test three days before returning as well as a PCR test on or before day two of their return. Travellers who are not fully-vaccinated must also self-isolate for 10 days and take a second PCR test on day eight of their return. An optional day-five test can be taken, with a negative result allowing travellers to “test out” of quarantine, but the day eight test must still be taken regardless of the result.

Red: Adsrrivals must undertake a 10-day quarantine in a managed hotel at a cost of £2,285 per adult, as well as pre-departure testing, and mandatory PCR testing on or before day two and on or after day eight.

What should we expect from the next review?

Major European destinations such as Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Portugal are again likely to remain on the amber list, meaning fully vaccinated people can continue to visit them without having to quarantine.

There are fears that Jamaica is at risk of being added to the red list after the Foreign Office updated its guidance to advise against all non-essential travel to the Caribbean island.

Jamaica recorded 739 new Covid-19 cases on Monday 30 August. Its daily figures have been rising steeply since late July.

The island’s seven-day infection rate has risen to 159 per 100,000 people.

It is also well behind countries like the UK in its vaccination drive – less than five per cent of the population has received both doses of the jab.

There will also be plenty of attention on Turkey and Pakistan, both of which were kept on the red list at the last review – to widespread anger.

Turkey’s cases have started declining and almost half of the country is fully vaccinated. The Turkish embassy had said before the last update that it was “confident” it would finally turn amber.

According to NHS figures, 1.7 per cent of people arriving from Turkey tested positive for Covid-19 during the latest three week time period. This is the same rate as Spain.

Travel expert Tim White told i the UK Government’s “widespread disbelief” of Turkey’s figures are the reason behind it remaining on the red list.

“I can only deduce that Grant Shapps is suspicious of the figures,” he said.

Pakistan has a seven-day infection rate of just 13 per 100,000 people – well below a number of green list destinations.

However, only around 6 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated.

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