The government is looking to provide cheap Covid-19 testing in an effort to safely resume foreign holidays.
However, ministers have refused to confirm whether routine overseas travel will be permitted from May 17 as they fear of jeopardising falling cases and the success of the vaccine roll-out by importing infectious variants.
The Department for Transport said it was “too early” to say when vacations abroad would resume as it confirmed that a traffic light system will be used to categorise countries based on risk.
The destinations people can visit without self-isolating on their return is also still unconfirmed.
Announcing the findings of the Global Travel Taskforce, transport secretary Grant Shapps said the government will work with the travel industry and private testing providers to reduce the cost of foreign trips – which could lead to free pre-departure tests and cheaper tests when holidaymakers return.
The Department for Transport said: “We will also work with the travel industry and private testing providers ahead of international travel reopening to see how we can further reduce the cost of travel for the British public while ensuring travel is as safe as possible.
“This could include cheaper tests being used when holidaymakers return home, as well as whether the government would be able to provide pre-departure tests.”
It added: “It is too early to predict which countries will be on which list over the summer, and the government continues to consider a range of factors to inform the restrictions placed on them.
“We will set out by early May which countries will fall into which category, as well as confirming whether international travel can resume from 17 May.”
Under the traffic light system, assessments will be based on a range of factors, including the proportion of a country’s population which has been vaccinated, rates of infection, emerging new variants and the country’s access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing.
These are the rules for each category:
– Green: There is no need to self-isolate. Take a pre-departure test and a PCR test on day two of your arrival in the UK.
– Amber: Self-isolate for 10 days, unless you receive a negative result from a test taken at least five days after arrival. Take a pre-departure test, and PCR tests on day two and day eight of your arrival in the UK.
– Red: Spend 11 days in a quarantine hotel. Take a pre-departure test, and PCR tests on day two and day eight of your arrival in the UK.
The categorisation of countries will be “kept under review” with a “particular focus on variants of concern”, the Department for Transport said.
Restrictions will be “formally reviewed” on June 28 to take account of “the domestic and international health picture and to see whether current measures could be rolled back”, the department added.
Further reviews will take place no later than July 31 and October 1.
A “Green Watchlist” will be introduced to identify countries most at risk of moving from “green” to “amber”.
Deaths involving coronavirus have plummeted 92% since the peak of the second wave in January, official weekly figures for England and Wales showed in the latest sign of progress against the pandemic.
Some 712 deaths involving Covid-19 happened in the seven days to March 19, according to the Office for National Statistics, down from 8,945 deaths in the week ending January 22 and the lowest level of weekly occurrences since October 9.
Meanwhile, the latest Public Health England data showed Covid-19 case rates have dropped across all regions.
Government data up to April 7 shows that of the 37,899,029 jabs given in the UK so far, 31,807,124 were first doses – a rise of 99,530 on the previous day.
Some 6,091,905 were second doses, an increase of 408,396.