This week’s traffic light review is expected to be a mostly positive update, with experts predicting that a large number of countries will be taken off the red list and only a few face the risk of being downgraded to red.
The current system, which ranks destinations as green, orange or red based on coronavirus risk factors, should also be scrapped and replaced with a simpler two-tier system that classifies countries into a start list and a list of no right.
It is not yet clear if the system will be overhauled during the tri-weekly traffic light update or if the overhaul will happen after this week’s announcement, making it the last traffic light update. in the current system.
When is the next travel update?
Announcements on traffic restrictions at traffic lights in the UK take place every three weeks, with the latest coming on August 26.
This review took place on a Thursday (which was previously the most common day for updates), although the previous two updates were both made on Wednesday.
Following this pattern means that the next travel advisory is due on Thursday, September 16 at 5 p.m., although it is very possible that it will come a day earlier.
Unlike other major developments in Covid’s response, travel updates tend not to be accompanied by a government press conference – changes are instead tweeted by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps .
Could the traffic light system be removed entirely in this week’s travel update?
Announcement on new restrictions system expected following Boris Johnson’s update on the UK’s wider plan for Covid winter
The current system, which ranks destinations as green, orange or red based on coronavirus risk factors, should be replaced with a simpler two-tier system that categorizes countries into a waiting list and a no-go list. .
It is believed that PCR testing, currently mandatory for all travelers arriving in the UK on or before the second day after arrival, will no longer be required for fully vaccinated travelers.
What is not yet clear is whether the new system will be announced with the traffic light changes this week or if it will be announced later this month.
The government has pledged to carry out a “check-up” review of the functioning of the traffic light system by October 1. In response to this review, the Department of Transportation is expected to make changes to the system.
How the traffic light system works
The lists are decided on the basis of the following criteria:
- The percentage of a country’s population that has been vaccinated
- The infection rate
- The prevalence of worrisome variants
- The country’s access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing
Here are the rules for each category of traffic lights:
- Green: Arrivals will be required to undergo a pre-departure test as well as a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test by the second day of their return to the UK at the latest – but will not need to self-quarantine at their home. return (unless they receive a positive result) or take additional testing.
- Amber: Arrivals will need to be quarantined for a period of 10 days and pass a pre-departure test, as well as a PCR test on the second and eighth day. It will be possible to take an additional test on the fifth day to end the self-isolation earlier.
- Red: Arrivals will be subject to the restrictions currently in place for ‘red list’ countries which include a 10-day stay in a managed quarantine hotel, pre-departure testing, and mandatory PCR testing on days two and eight.
PCR tests must be booked through one of the government approved providers.
The government has been looking for ways to lower the price of testing, with PCR testing typically costing between £ 120 and £ 160, while some travel providers have heavily subsidized the costs.
This means that if that doesn’t happen this week, we can expect changes to be made to the system before October 1.
The UK’s color-coded travel rules are currently among the most restrictive in Europe.
The travel industry has long complained that the cost of expensive testing, even for those who have been fully vaccinated, and frequent changes to the list with little notice have deterred people from booking vacations abroad.
Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye backed the idea of doing away with the current traffic light system, saying he had “had his time” and more emphasis should be placed on risk assessment of individual travelers rather than categorization of countries.
Speaking to Sky News on Monday, he said: “If you’ve been doubly vaccinated you don’t need to take the tests. If you haven’t been doubly vaccinated you should still take a flow test. sideways, and only if it turns out positive, then you should take a PCR test. This allows us to take a step back towards normal life and normal travel. “
Which countries could go on the red list?
Covid data analyst Tim White said The Independent that three Caribbean destinations risk being placed on the red list. They are:
- St. LUCIA
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
Mr White said: “Many countries in the Caribbean are currently at high infection levels without any genomic testing.”
There are particular concerns that Jamaica could be added to the Red List after the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) updated its guidelines to advise against non-essential travel to the Caribbean island on August 30.
The ruling invalidated insurance for most holidaymakers, who will now need a specialist policy if they still intend to travel against FCO advice and have driven TUI, the UK’s largest tour operator , to immediately cancel all vacations on the island.
The FCO has likely advised against travel to Jamaica, in part because the island is struggling with its vaccination campaign, with just 5% of the population having received both doses of the vaccine.
However, the number of cases on the island peaked and then fell in the two weeks since the FCO advised against all but essential travel two weeks ago.
As of September 14, Jamaica’s seven-day average case rate is 595. This is down from 670 on August 30 when the FCO’s decision to advise against all but essential travel was announced, after a peak on August 4. September 703.
Which countries could be removed from the red list?
The number of countries on the red list is expected to be drastically reduced under the new travel rules, according to The telegraph.
Indeed, the Red List designation should be reserved for countries where there are concerns about specific dangerous variants of concern, particularly the prevalence of the beta variant first found in South Africa.
It remains to be seen whether such changes will come as part of the next scheduled review of travel rules, or following a subsequent announcement on the larger system, but it could lead to a significant upheaval.
Tim White, Covid Data Analyst, said to The independent that he thinks 12 countries should be removed from the red, namely:
- Dominican Republic
- South Africa
- Sri Lanka
Meanwhile, Paul Charles, travel consultant for the PC agency, insisted that up to 24 Red List countries should have their restrictions relaxed:
- Dominican Republic
- South Africa
Turkey is often the source of speculation given its popularity as a holiday destination, and it is believed that it could be a borderline amber candidate again.
The Turkish Embassy said before the latest update that it was “confident” it would finally turn orange, to no avail.
However, the Embassy in London repeated its confident prediction in an interview with Sky News, insisting: a number of countries that are already on the Amber List.
“Therefore, we expect Turkey to be removed from the red list. “
Hopes were raised earlier this month that Pakistan could move to the Amber List after Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said he wanted the country to be removed from the Red List.
Speaking at a press conference in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, the foreign minister called on the country to “work together” with the United Kingdom to find a solution to the “sensitive issue”.
He said: “We want to find a way through, nobody wants Pakistan off the red list more than me, but we are making these decisions at a technical level.
“I think the smart thing to do is work together to make this happen as soon as possible, in the safest and most responsible way possible.”
The main reason for keeping Pakistan on the Red List is believed to be the country’s low vaccination rate, with only around 10 percent of the population having received two doses of the vaccine.