Traffic-light system changes: what now for devolved UK nations?

The announcement that the traffic-light system in England is to be overhauled has been met with varied responses from the governments of the UK’s devolved nations.

The Northern Ireland government has mirrored the rule changes in England, with the merger of the green and amber lists on Monday 4 October, leaving a single red list:  Bangladesh, Egypt, Kenya, the Maldives, Oman, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Turkey will be removed from the red list with effect from 4am on Wednesday 22 September.  

From the same day, fully vaccinated travellers will no longer have to self-isolate or undertake a day 8 PCR test on arrival in Northern Ireland from Antigua & Barbuda, Australia, Bahrain, Barbados, Brunei, Canada, Dominica, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, New Zealand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan. This is in line with the current rules for fully jabbed UK, EU and US travellers. 

The Welsh government said it would consider the proposed changes to the traffic light system but said the new proposals announced on Friday were “not without risk”.

Wales has followed England and Northern Ireland on changes to the red list but it still is looking at the other changes.

Eluned Morgan, the Welsh minister for health and social services, said, “We will carefully consider the UK Government’s proposed changes to the border health measures, which include the removal of pre-departure testing and introducing lateral flow tests instead of PCR tests on day two of people’s return to the UK.

“Our considerations will be underpinned by robust evidence and our main focus will continue to be on reducing the risk to public health in Wales. 

“These changes are not without risk – they weaken the line of defence on importing infection and increase opportunities for new infections and new variants to enter the UK and Wales. Vaccines can help reduce this risk but only if they are effective against new and emerging variants of concern and high-risk variants under investigation.”

She said, “A four-nation collaborative approach is critical to evaluate and implement effective border control arrangements. As Wales shares an open border with England, and most travellers arriving in Wales enter through ports outside Wales, it is not effective to have separate border health policy arrangements for Wales.”

The Scottish Government has yet to announce its response to the changes. 

Derek Provan, chief executive of AGS Airports, which owns Aberdeen, Glasgow and Southampton airports, said: “The outgoing traffic light system was both costly and confusing. Not only did the data show it to be ineffective in terms of protecting public health or detecting variants of concern, but it has been extremely damaging to our industry which has been on the brink for the last 18 months.

“It was inconceivable to think 2021 would be worse than 2020 for aviation, however, that is the reality. Now that progress is being made to strip away the layers of complexity associated with international travel, we urge the Scottish Government to adopt a four-nations approach without delay.

“Moving forward we need government to work with the industry to help rebuild passenger confidence and, more importantly, restore the connectivity we have lost.”

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