THE new traffic light system being introduced to allow holidays abroad to resume has been slammed as too expensive for normal Brits due to the mandatory Covid tests still needed.
Johan Lundgren, chief executive of easyJet, warned that the Government’s plan to require holidaymakers returning from “green” countries to take tests pre-departure and post-arrival will only open up international travel “for people who can afford it”.
Holidays abroad are not yet allowed under lockdown rules with the government to announce on April 12 when they can restart, with hopes it will be from May 17.
The new traffic light system will see different countries graded green, amber or red according to their vaccinations, infection rates, the prevalence of variants of concern, and their genomic sequencing capacity.
People heading to low-risk “green” countries will not need to isolate on return to the UK, but they will need to take Covid tests before and after they arrive home. Which countries will be classed as green have yet to be revealed.
Mr Lundgren told BBC Breakfast: “It should not be needed to put any more complexities and cost in order to travel to and from those destinations, but what the Government came up with yesterday was that they were looking to introduce a two-test system, which means that, even in those green countries, that green category of destinations, you would still need to take on additional cost to do so.
“If the Government was choosing to take one of those PCR tests, (of) which the cost is way over and above what the cost is of an average easyJet fare as an example, you wouldn’t open up international travel for everyone, you would open up international travel for people who can afford it.
“I don’t think that is fair, I don’t think it’s right and I don’t think it is necessarily established from a medical and scientific point of view that is the right thing to do.”
PCR tests can cost as much as £120 per person in the UK, meaning a family holiday could cost hundreds more.
How would the travel traffic light system work?
GREEN: Anyone returning from these countries must take a pre-flight Covid test at their own cost, then take a further test within days of landing to check for new strains;
AMBER: Like green but those entering the UK must isolate at home for ten days after arrival. They can get out after five days with a negative test paid for privately;
RED: Arrivals must isolate on their return in an authorised hotel at their own cost — as they do currently.
Mr Lundgren continued: “If they choose, however, to go down that route to have the tests in place, it should be the same type of testing, the lateral flow testing, which is much cheaper, more accessible, that is being used to open up the domestic sector as an example.”
Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel, agreed, adding: “Testing will be essential for restarting travel safely, but private tests in the UK are currently too expensive and risk pricing most people out of travel.
“Other countries have found solutions to reduce the cost of private testing, so if the government is serious about making travel safe and affordable when it restarts, it must urgently look at ways to reduce these expenses.”
There are more restrictions in place for countries deemed higher risk.
Travellers returning from medium risk “amber” countries will have to take a pre-departure test, then self isolate at home for ten days.
They will also have to take a PCR test on day 2 and day 8 of quarantine, but could also take a private test on day 5 in order to leave self-isolation.
They will then have to pay for two further Covid tests on day 2 and day 8 of isolation.
Here are the countries currently on the high risk “red’ list.
A number of countries are also allowing vaccine passports as a way of welcoming travellers, who can avoid restrictions including Covid tests or mandatory quarantines.
Here are some of the destinations who have confirmed they will allow vaccinated Brits back by the summer.