LONDON (Reuters) -The UK will confirm in early May whether to allow international travel to resume from May 17 and which countries will fall into the red, yellow or green category in the traffic light system based on the risk of COVID-19.
The airline, which desperately needs the summer after a year of restrictions, criticized a proposal from the government’s Global Travel Taskforce, which includes a COVID test, saying the cost of 100-pound PCR testing for those arriving from low-risk green countries would attract many travelers.
Providing new details on how they hope to enable people to travel this summer, the task force also said work is being done to develop a certification system, sometimes called a “vaccine passport”, for inbound and outbound travel.
Britain is gradually coming out of a strict winter lockdown sparked by a spike in COVID-19 infections and deaths. Meanwhile, international travel is prohibited except in certain circumstances determined by the government.
But the government’s proposal to restart travel fell short of the airline industry’s expectations.
“This does not represent the reopening of travel as promised by the ministers,” said Airlines UK, the industry body that represents British Airways, easyJet, Ryanair, Virgin Atlantic and others.
EasyJet, the UK’s largest airline by passenger numbers, said PCR test requirements for low-risk countries were a blow to travelers and called on the government to reassess its plans.
“It runs the risk of turning back time and making flying only for the rich,” said easyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren.
The number of cases in the UK has fallen dramatically since the peak of January but the government’s priority is to avoid undermining the success of the vaccination program by importing vaccine-resistant variants from abroad.
“The framework announced today will help enable us to reopen travel safely and sustainably, ensure we protect our hard-earned achievements in vaccine launches and offer peace of mind for passengers and the industry when we start traveling overseas once. again, ”said Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
The government says it is working with the travel industry and with private COVID-19 test providers to cut travel costs.
“This could include a cheaper test that is used when tourists return home, as well as whether the government will be able to provide a pre-departure test,” said the travel task force.
Under the traffic light system, restrictions such as hotel quarantine, home quarantine and mandatory COVID testing will apply differently depending on the passenger’s country of origin category.
Factors in the assessment category will include the percentage of the population that has been vaccinated, infection rates, prevalence of variants of concern and country access to reliable genome sequencing.
There will be a “green watchlist” identifying the countries most at risk of switching from green to yellow, although the government says it will not hesitate to change a country category if the data shows the risk increases.
The Task Force indicated that a digital travel certification system would be part of the plan but provided few details other than saying that the UK wants to play a leading role in developing standards in this area.
Reporting by Estelle Shirbon and Sarah Young; editing by Diane Craft, Robert Birsel