Travel Taskforce Report Review

After weeks of speculation and hints of what’s to come, the government have finally revealed the report from their taskforce on how they plan to safely reintroduce international travel – and there’s cautious good news for those hoping to enjoy a summer holiday abroad.

The government have confirmed that international travel won’t start until at least 17 May, if coronavirus levels remain manageable the UK. After that, in time for our high season getaways, they’re proposing to implement a ‘traffic light’ system on entry back to the UK, which is based on how serious the coronavirus situation is for each destination.

But how will this work in practice and what does it mean for booking travel? The Switched On team has taken a closer look at the report and provides an overview of the key details.

How will the government decide which category a destination is in?

The UK government will base their decision on the latest information they have about the percentage of the country’s population that has been vaccinated, the rate of infection, whether the destination has variants of concern, and how reliable the country’s data is.

Because the above factors are constantly changing, the government are wary about confirming which countries are in which category too early. Expect to hear the first list in ‘early May’. And remember that the lists are always going to be subject to change, based on the above factors.

What rules and changes apply to all categories?

Any passenger who’s coming into the UK from abroad won’t be able to get on the plane until they’ve completed an online Passenger Locator Form (PLF) and provided a negative test result, which includes lateral flow tests. These are cheap and quick and can be taken at many airports.

While the rules vary according to the traffic light system, all passengers that come into the UK will have to take at least one PCR test which travellers will need to pay for themselves. The government have hinted that they’re hoping to lower the price of these tests so as not to add high additional costs to those that wish to travel, especially for families, but it remains to be seen what, if anything, will be implemented.

Eventually, the government will introduce certification (i.e. vaccine passports) to help reduce the barrier for those who are unlikely to fall ill or pass on the virus. Details of this are still to be confirmed. The government also hopes to introduce a COVID-19 Charter, which will set out passenger rights while these measures are in place.

A review of all COVID-19 related restrictions will take place on 28 June, and at check points no later than 31 July and 1 October.

What do the different colours mean?

If a destination is on the green list, it means arrivals will need to take a pre-departure lateral flow test, as well as a PCR test on or before day two of their arrival back into the UK. But they won’t need to quarantine on return or take any more tests unless they receive a positive result.

If a destination is on the amber list, arrivals will need to take a pre-departure test, quarantine for ten days, and take a PCR test on day two and day eight, with the option to take an extra test on day five to end self-isolation early. Eventually, those who are vaccinated won’t need to quarantine when arriving from an amber country.

Those coming from a red list destination will follow what’s in place for red-listed places now. That includes pre-departure testing, a ten day mandatory quarantine in a hotel, and PCR testing on day two and eight.

What date does this come into effect?

The government are looking at restarting international travel on 17 May and will trial this system for the following weeks. They hope any problems in the process will have been ironed out by the peak holiday season in August. Exact dates will be confirmed closer to the time.

Until then, non-essential travel is banned with a £5,000 fine for those who break the rules. Those who do travel abroad for essential work, education or property-related reasons, have to quarantine at home for ten days when they return (unless they’re returning from Ireland). For those returning from a red list country, an 11-day hotel isolation is mandatory, at a cost of £1,750.

Can I buy travel insurance to protect me from COVID-19 related issues?

Cover for COVID-19 related issues varies from provider to provider so it’s important to check travel insurance policy wordings carefully to make sure you’re clear about what is, and isn’t, covered.

In terms of Switched On travel insurance, our policy currently covers several aspects relating to COVID-19, although terms and conditions do apply. To find out more take a look at our dedicated COVID-19 FAQ page here.


Details correct at the time of writing. Please be aware that as details can change it’s important to check for the latest information relating to COVID-19.