According to reports across the media and travel-sphere this morning, the traffic light system coming to an end could happen as soon as next month.

The BBC is reporting that the new shake-up would mean the system we all know, and despise, could be set for the scrapheap come October.

Initial sources are saying the current system could be scrapped for one which recognises traveller vaccination status rather than focussing too much on the COVID situation in the country they are visiting. 

So what would this new system look like?

traffic lights

Could the traffic light system coming to an end happen as soon as 1 October?

Is this America?

It’s being reported that under the new system, which could come into effect from 1 October, the green and amber lists would be scrapped. However, the red “do not travel” list will remain, along with its 14-day hotel quarantine requirements.

This new system would seem to echo that of the United States which essentially operates a, two-tier, red and safe list approach. Industry insider and chief executive of PC Agency Paul Charles tweeted:

The traffic light system is expected to be scrapped by 1st Oct – at last. Airlines and some of us in the sector are aware of plans to create a simpler system, where countries are either red or not. This would be the US model in effect, which I’ve been calling for.

The widely reported new system could make it so that vaccinated travellers would only need to complete pre-departure PCR tests and one more test on day two of arrival back in the UK when visiting any destination which isn’t deemed as high-risk. Although it’s thought, travel professionals are lobbying against the inclusion of testing in the new format.

However, initial thoughts are it could make it slightly harder for the non-vaccinated to travel to previously green-listed destinations.

The vaccination rollout in the UK continued to gather pace

The new travel system would be more based on a person’s vaccination status, rather than the state of the country they’re visiting

Turbulent traffic light

Since its inception back in May, the traffic light system has done little to encourage UK travellers to head abroad this summer.

In fact, the traffic light system coming to an end may come as music to the ears of those in travel industry. Many in the sector have argued the system has actually done more harm than good when it comes to British travel confidence.

BA chief executive said the system was “not fit for purpose and needed to be simplified.” While Charles went on to comment:

Scrapping the traffic light system would be a relief to pretty well everyone and herald a ‘living with an endemic’ approach rather than blanket country measures. Would be a relief to countries in Africa, South America and Asia which don’t deserve to be red-listed.

It’s thought the scrapping of the controversial system is in line with the completion of the vaccination rollout in the UK. After all adults over the age of 18 will have been offered two jabs by the end of September. 

Thus far the government has declined to comment on the plans, however, one spokesperson did say

Our international travel policy is guided by one overwhelming priority – protecting public health. The next formal checkpoint review will take place by 1 October 2021.

Listen to the industry

It’s understood the government liaised with prominent members of the travel fraternity to come up with an alternative solution to the outdated traffic light system.
However, one demand from the industry when drawing up the plans was the removal of the need to complete tests to travel.
Sector bosses have said testing is a barrier stopping families from taking to the skies again. The removal of testing requirements would also bring the UK more in-line with the current system being implemented by the EU, where freedom of movement around the bloc is allowed without the need for testing.
Many believe the cost of expensive tests adds hundreds, sometimes thousands, to the overall bill of a family break in the sun. It’s not yet known whether the testing plans will be ratified, as government officials still seem set on having a robust testing system in place.
We may just have to wait for 1 October to find out what the future of UK travel looks like.