The United Kingdom Government is widely expected to update its traffic light classification system tomorrow. The move would come as the first update since the green list was launched in mid-May. Red and amber rules have been in force since early 2021.
The UK has been relatively strict on international arrivals since a rise in COVID-19 cases prompted a third national lockdown towards the start of the year. This led to a ban on non-essential travel, in addition to mandatory quarantine periods for almost every arrival. The government’s relaxation of these rules has been criticized as too cautious by some airlines, including Ryanair.
Will we see more green countries?
It’s impossible to precisely say what decisions we will see made by the UK Government until announced. When the initial green list was revealed, many were shocked at how small and impractical it was.
According to Travel Weekly, Boris Johnson commented that the government would have “no hesitation” downgrading countries from the green and amber list if they become seen as a risk. Johnson is reported to have said,
“You’ve got to wait and see what the Joint Biosecurity Centre say and what the recommendations are about travel. We’re going to try … to allow people to travel, as I know that many people want to, but we’ve got to be cautious.”
Data analyst Tim White commented on Twitter that Malta stands a good chance of being added to the green list but warned that it could be back to amber for Portugal soon, the leading travel destination on the green list so far.
11/#Slovakia 100% should turn🟢in the coming UK🚦travel review. Low cases, reliable data, good science. All indicators lower than Portugal when it went green 3 weeks ago.#Portugal stays green, but WARNING – if current trend continues, it could be "flashing green" in 3 weeks
— Tim White (@TWMCLtd) May 30, 2021
The green list doesn’t mean go
One problem with the UK’s green list is that it doesn’t necessarily mean that the country is open for travel. The UK Government’s guidance is that travel is okay to green countries, but that passengers should not travel to amber or red list countries. To show this, we just need to look at Australia and New Zealand, both of which are on the green list but also not open to tourism.
While Spain recently gave the green light for tourists from the UK, not everybody shares the same view. Germany has banned most travelers from the UK due to variant concerns. Those who can enter from the UK must quarantine for 14 days on arrival.
A similar problem can also be seen on the return leg. As mentioned above, the Prime Minister revealed that there would be no hesitation when downgrading countries. This could cause severe headaches for those already abroad, as little to no notice is often given.
Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.
Airlines not happy
Broadly, airlines are not happy with the current green list. On Sky News earlier today, Ryanair Group CEO Michael O’Leary commented that the “Indian Scariant”, or the Delta variant as the World Health Organization now knows it, is being used to urge caution. He went on to suggest that increasing vaccination rates should allow more countries to join the green list.
Which countries, if any, do you think will be added to the green list? Let us know what you think and why in the comments below!