UK PM non-committal over travel traffic light system

by Deborah Cater
Downing Street coronavirus briefing - non committal re travel traffic light system. Image from Number 10 on Flickr.com under https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

LONDON – UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was far from forthcoming yesterday over international travel and the proposed traffic light system.

In his coronavirus briefing on Tuesday 20th April, Boris Johnson said there was nothing in the current data to suggest the UK cannot proceed with the roadmap for easing down. That would mean international travel would not incur a fine from 17th May.

However, when it came to questions from the public and journalists on the proposed traffic light system, the PM was non-committal.

How often will UK travel traffic light system be reviewed?

When questioned on how often the ‘red list’ of countries with severe travel restrictions would be reviewed, and how they would be moved off the list, the prime minister said it was under “constant review”.

He further clarified, saying the responsibility was not his but that of the Joint Biosecurity Council. “If they think there is a variant of concern, if they think the disease is taking off rapidly” in a particular country, it will be added to the list, he said. Further, if the situation improves, the country can be moved off the list.

No vaccination ‘passport’ for UK citizens

The prime minister said the UK is considering a ‘Covid status certification’. This, he said, would help “open up those things that proved very tough to open last year”. He did not clarify whether it would be along the same lines as the proposed EU Digital Green Certificate (DGC).

Johnson did say, however, that the certification would not just record vaccine status. It would also state whether people have been recently tested or have natural immunity after being infected. This is very much the outline for the DGC.

He went on to say, “People certainly don’t need to think about it before 17 May.”

Chances of summer holiday abroad for Britons

The prime minister’s last remark intimates, that while the road map may be following its course, he doesn’t advise people to book international holidays just yet. This despite the timeline for international travel resuming only weeks away.

When pushed on the odds of people being able to take summer holidays abroad this year, the prime minister’s response was non-committal.

Boris Johnson said he could not yet give information on which countries will be allowed [for travel] and which wouldn’t. He refused to speculate on what will be announced for holidays on 17th May.

Airlines’ plans are changeable

The main airlines flying from the UK to Spain and the rest of Europe are preparing to welcome back passengers. However, there are concerns over which nations will make the UK government’s ‘green list’.

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EasyJet’s CEO Johan Lundgren remains positive Europe’s main hotspots will make the cut. He said he “would expect almost all major European countries” to be classified as low risk.

Easyjet

EasyJet Holidays explained on their website: “Currently, the Government has said that the planned restart date for international travel is still due to be 17 May and that’s the date we’re planning to start taking people away again.

“The Government has also shared a little bit more about how holidays can be restarted again and the introduction of a traffic light system – they will share which traffic light colour destinations fall under in early May, so we’ll know even more then. We’re continually working through how Covid-19 may impact future bookings in departure date order.”

Jet2

Jet2 cancelled all flights until 23rd June saying on their website: “Because of the continued uncertainty following the release of the Global Travel Taskforce framework, it’s with a heavy heart that we’ve taken the decision to extend the suspension of flights up to and including 23 June 2021.

TUI

TUI continues to plan for some flights and holidays from May 17 “at the earliest”. In a statement on the TUI website, it explains: “Following the recent announcement from the UK government, customers travelling from England will be subject to a new traffic light system with ‘green’, ‘amber’ and ‘red’ destinations.

Ryanair

Ryanair continued to operate some flights throughout the pandemic. The airline extended its “no flight change fee” until November to allow more “flexibility” for the customer. “We know your plans may change, so we’ve dropped our flight change fees for all new bookings made before 30 June 2021, for travel before 31 October 2021,” reads a statement from Ryanair.

British Airways

British Airways has offered a “reduced” and “dynamic” service throughout the pandemic. It cancelled all of its package holiday plans until 17th May. It continues to offer a “book with confidence commitment” for its customers.

A report puts most of Europe as ‘amber’ or ‘red’

Former BA strategy chief Robert Boyle has other ideas, however. His report circulated within the travel industry suggest most of continental Europe will be classified as ‘amber’ or ‘red’.

According to Boyle’s report, only eight countries may be declared safe for foreign holidays abroad, this summer. Those are: Ireland, Iceland, the USA, Malta, Israel, Australia, New Zealand and the British overseas territory of Gibraltar.

Countries classified as ‘amber’ will require people to quarantine at home for 10 days after their arrival. Due to relatively high Covid-19 rates in Spain, Greece, Italy, and Cyprus, they are likely to be classed as ‘amber’. However, it is possible that islands will be given their own rating.

The report said: “Last year, the Spanish and Greek islands were given a lower risk rating than the mainland, and that could happen again this year.”

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