Foreign holidays are currently banned but people in England can start thinking about booking foreign trips again. The latest recommendations from UK’s Global Travel Taskforce showed that international travel in the country may resume from 17 May 2021.

Outbound travellers may no longer need the permission to travel form to prove that they have a valid reason to leave the country. Thus, the overseas holiday may be allowed soon subjected to the rules of the destination. However, residents may need to undergo testing before they board a flight and, if necessary, vaccines for outbound travel to a third country.

Holidaymakers will need to keep an eye on a Covid traffic light system as international travel rules are eased. With the steps taken to resume travelling, the rules on breaks within the UK are also changing.

The Taskforce also launched a new traffic light system for inbound travelers to the UK based on the risk of the destination visited prior to arriving in the UK that will determine the restrictions required for travel. The key factors in the assessment will include:

  • the percentage of their population that has been vaccinated
  • the rate of infection
  • the prevalence of variants of concern
  • the country’s access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing

Countries are categorized as ‘green’, ‘amber’ or ‘red’ and different travel restrictions apply to each. Details of where countries will be in a new traffic light system for England are expected in early May.

  • Green:

 Passengers will not need to quarantine on return, but must take a pre-departure test, as well as a PCR test on return

  • Amber:

 Travelers will need to quarantine for 10 days, as well as taking a pre-departure test and two PCR tests, a PCR test on day 2 and day 8 with the option for Test to Release on day 5 to end self-isolation early.

  • Red:

 Passengers will have to pay for a 10-day stay in a managed quarantine hotel, as well as a pre-departure test and two PCR tests. 

Estimated each PCR test could cost about £120 per person. This could make holidays unaffordable for many people.

The said traffic light system will not only apply to travelers arriving by air. The Taskforce also recommended the same measures to be applied on international cruises. The UK government has confirmed that domestic cruises will restart in England no earlier than 17 May.

People are now free to travel between England and Wales, self-contained holiday accommodation can open to people from the same household or support bubble.

In Wales, this includes hotels with en-suite facilities and room service, in England it does not. Hotels and B&Bs can open in England on 17 May at the earliest. No more than six people or two households will be able to stay together. The earliest limits on numbers could be lifted is 21 June.

The UK government claimed that testing is an essential tool in order to manage the risk of imported cases and to monitor and isolate positive cases as well as to identify the corona virus variant that could potentially arrive in the country from overseas.

The government plans to work with the travel industry and private testing providers to reduce the inherent cost and as part of its border readiness.

 Easing restrictions are indeed welcome. It is clear that the UK government does not want to disrupt the ongoing vaccine rollout and avoid another devastating lockdown at all cost. However, it is not easy to strike a balance on ensuring public health and full reopening.

The travel companies raised doubt on the latest recommendations. Airlines argued that the expensive mandatory corona virus tests will make holidays unaffordable for everyone but the rich.

We have to start looking at the situation from the point of view of our customers. No one is clear if they are going to be allowed to come to Britain. The economy will struggle to restart in any meaningful way without foreign visitors, who pump over GBP30 billion a year into the service economy. Shops, attractions, hotels and attractions are reliant on this business and still have no idea when it will start.

The UK government is yet to confirm whether international travel can resume from 17 May 2021 according to the recent interview by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

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