COVID-19: UK to announce new international travel rules

London: Britain will on Monday set out plans to restart international travel, using a “traffic-light” system as the country cautiously emerges from lockdown.

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The announcement comes as the UK has set a tentative date of May 17 to relaunch international travel.

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Travel destinations will be ranked green, amber or red according to virus risk, Downing Street said in a statement late Saturday, with the government to provide more details on Monday.

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International travel is currently banned except for a handful of permitted reasons. This has created massive pent-up demand for summer holidays abroad.

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“We are doing everything we can to enable the reopening of our country as safely as possible,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

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New system

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The government said the new system “will help ensure the UK’s vaccine progress isn’t jeopardised and provide clear guidance for travellers”.

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People heading to low-risk “green” countries will simply take a virus test before and after they travel, the government said.

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But those going to amber or red countries will have to self-isolate or quarantine afterwards.

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Currently people arriving in the UK from abroad are required to self-isolate for 10 days.

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British nationals who arrive from a banned “red list” of high-risk countries face costly quarantine in government-approved hotels.

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The government urged people not to book summer holidays, saying it was “too early to predict” which would be the green-lighted countries.

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The government has announced it will allow a number of people to attend public events such as football matches from this month in trials of a virus certification system.

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But it has not made clear whether it will issue “virus passports” for international travel, an idea backed by many tourism-dependent countries and airlines but opposed by more than 70 UK MPs.

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The UK has already given out more than 31 million first vaccine doses and over 5 million second doses.

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The rollout has far outstripped popular holiday destinations such as France.

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Public mood

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This has boosted the public mood after more than 126,000 people died from the virus in the United Kingdom, the highest toll in Europe.

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From Thursday, those living in England will be able to access two free rapid virus tests per week, a measure aimed at curbing symptom-free virus spread.

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This will make such tests far more accessible than currently. “More cases will be detected, breaking chains of transmission and saving lives,” the government said Monday.

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged people to take up the offer, saying “getting back to normal hinges on us all getting tested regularly”.

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The lateral flow tests will be available at workplaces, community sites, schools and colleges. People will also be able to order delivery of the tests.

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