A “green watchlist”, additional enforcement powers for the CAA and a new Covid passenger charter are among the Global Travel Taskforce’s plans to restart international travel this summer, amid hopes that travel could still resume in May.
The framework was set out by transport secretary Grant Shapps, with the report detailing how “international travel could resume from 17 May at the earliest in an accessible and affordable way”.
The government said this would include the removal of the existing “permission to travel form”, meaning passengers would no longer need to prove they have a valid reason to leave the country.
A traffic light system to categorise countries by their Covid situation was also confirmed, but the government said it remained too early to predict which countries would be on the red, amber and green lists.
These details will follow “by early May”, along with confirmation of whether international travel will in fact be able to resume from 17 May. The allocation of countries will be kept under review, with a particular focus on “variants of concern”, it said.
Restrictions will be formally reviewed on 28 June, with further formal reviews taking place at checkpoints “no later than 31 July and 1 October”.
Meanwhile, a new “green watchlist” will be introduced to help identify countries at greatest risk of moving from green to amber status, which the government said would “provide greater assurance for those who wish to travel abroad”.
Elsewhere, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is to be given additional enforcement powers to act on airlines that have breached consumer rights, with a dedicated consultation on how to use new tools to enforce consumer rights set to take place later this year – a move the government said would “further boost consumer confidence”.
A Covid-19 charter will also be introduced from 17 May, setting out what is required of passengers and what their rights are while measures remain in place.
On testing, the government said this would remain an essential part of protecting public health as restrictions begin to ease, with all arrivals who are not exempt required to book a pre-departure test, as well as day two and day eight tests before travelling.
Arrivals travelling from Red list countries will be required to book a quarantine package before departure, while arrivals from Amber and Green countries will be required to book test packages from a gov.uk list of providers before they travel.
The government also stressed it would “work with the travel industry and private testing providers ahead of international travel reopening to see how we can further reduce the cost of travel for the British public”.
It added this could include cheaper tests being used when holidaymakers return home, as well as whether the government would be able to provide pre-departure tests.
Elsewhere, the government has announced plans to digitise the Passenger Locator Form, which it said would be integrated into the UK border system with checks to take place at e-gates by autumn 2021.
Announcing the measures, Shapps said: “International travel is vital – it boosts businesses and underpins the UK economy – but more than that, it brings people together, connects families who have been kept apart, and allows us to explore new horizons.
“The framework announced today will help allow us to reopen travel safely and sustainably, ensure we protect our hard-won achievements on the vaccine roll out and offer peace of mind to both passengers and industry as we begin to take trips abroad once again.”
The government’s traffic light system will work as follows:
The government also noted it was "prepared to put the emergency brakes on reopening international travel" if it perceives a net risk to the four tests underpinning its Covid-19 roadmap.
These are: that the vaccine deployment programme continues successfully; vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths; infections do not risk unsustainable pressure on the NHS; and assessment of risks is not fundamentally changed by new "variants of concern".
What are your thoughts on the government’s plans to restart international travel? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.