The UK will on Monday plan to restart international travel with a “traffic light” system when the country gently comes out of lock.
The announcement comes when the UK has set a tentative date of May 17 to restart international travel.
Destinations will be ranked as green, amber or red according to virus risk, Downing Street said in a statement late Saturday, with the government to provide more information on Monday.
International travel is currently prohibited except for a handful of permitted reasons. This has created a massive estimated demand for summer holidays abroad.
“We are doing everything we can to enable the resumption of our country … as safely as possible,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The government said the new system “will help ensure that Britain’s vaccine progress is not jeopardized and provide clear guidelines for travelers”.
People who go to “green” countries at low risk will simply take a virus test before and after the trip, the government said.
But those who go to amber or red countries have to self-isolate or quarantine afterwards.
Currently, people arriving in the UK from abroad have to self-isolate for 10 days.
British citizens who come from a banned “red list” of high-risk countries are facing costly quarantine in government-approved hotels.
The government urged people not to book summer holidays and said it was “too early to predict” which countries would be green lit.
The government has announced that it will allow a number of people to participate in public events such as football matches from this month in trials with a virus certification system.
But it has not clarified whether it will issue “virus passports” for international travel, an idea supported by many tourist-dependent countries and airlines but the opposite by more than 70 British MPs.
The UK has already issued more than 31 million initial vaccine doses and over 5 million second doses.
The expansion has far exceeded popular holiday destinations such as France.
This has given rise to the general mood after more than 126,000 people died of the virus in the UK, the highest rate in Europe.
As of Thursday, those living in England will have access to two free rapid virus tests per week, a measure aimed at limiting asymptomatic virus spread.
This will make such tests much more accessible than at present. “More cases will be discovered, breaking transmission chains and saving lives,” the government said Monday.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged people to take up the offer and said “to get back to normal hinges on the fact that we are all tested regularly”.
The lateral flow tests will be available at workplaces, community centers, schools and colleges. People will also be able to order delivery of the tests.