What is the new ‘Traffic Light’ travel system?

The new ‘traffic light’ travel system will allow holidaymakers to safely visit foreign countries for summer holidays amidst the pandemic. 


The government unveils a traffic light system that will rank countries according to their coronavirus risk. This proposal is a part of the UK Global Travel Taskforce’s plan to resume overseas holidays.

The taskforce, led by transport secretary Grant Shapps, recommends classifying green, amber or red destinations based on the potential dangers they pose.

Shapps stated, ‘The framework announced today will help allow us to reopen travel safely and sustainably, ensure we protect our hard-won achievements on the vaccine rollout and offer peace of mind to both passengers and the industry as we begin to take trips abroad once again.’

A Set of Traffic Lights

What do the colours mean?

Travel destinations will be categorised by colour according to their Covid-19 risk levels. The colour labels will, in turn, help in determining the restrictions and precautions required before and after travel. A green label will indicate the least risk, while a red label will point to a high-risk country.

Visitors to countries in the ‘green list’ will be required to take a pre-departure PCR test. On their return to the UK, they will need to take another test on or before Day 2 of arrival. Travellers will not be required to self-isolate or undergo additional testing unless they receive a positive test result.

Test packages will need to be booked beforehand from a government-approved provider.

On returning from an ‘amber list’ country, arrivals will be required to self-isolate for 10 days. They will also need to take Covid-19 PCR tests on Day 2 and Day 8 of their arrival in the UK. The option to opt into the Test to Release scheme will be available for anyone wanting to come out of quarantine early. A pre-departure PCR test will also be applicable.

Arrivals from ‘red list’ countries must quarantine for 10 days in a government-approved hotel. While they will be required to take PCR tests on Day 2 and Day 8 of their arrivals, they must also take a pre-departure test. Passengers returning from ‘red list’ countries will not be eligible to participate in the Test to Release scheme.

In all cases, test packages will need to be booked beforehand from a government-approved provider.

How will countries be categorised in this system?

The government will assess a country’s risk status based on several aspects, some of which are:

  • The percentage of the population vaccinated,
  • The infection rate,
  • The prevalence of Covid-19 variants.

The risk assessment will be a continual undertaking, and the classification of countries would be under constant review. A ‘green watchlist’ will be established to respond to emerging evidence and recognise when a ‘green listed country might need to be moved to the ‘amber list.

When will the ‘traffic light’ system start?

The government suggests they will begin classifying countries by traffic light colours in ‘early May’. That is also when the government will decide if foreign travel can resume on 17 May.

A formal review on 28 June will consider ‘the domestic and international health picture’ before relaxing the current measures.