Should Canada adopt U.K.’s traffic-light system to re-start travel?

When the United Kingdom announced last week that it was dropping its blanket restrictions on international travel in favour of a traffic-light system with destinations classified as red, amber or green, voices in Canada began calling on the federal government to consider a similar idea.

“On behalf of the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who have lost their jobs in the aviation and travel sector, and the scores of communities that have lost service, it is critical that the federal government now follow the U.K. example and work immediately with industry to develop a restart plan,” said Mike McNaney, president and chief executive officer of the National Airlines Council of Canada, in a release Friday.

While Air Canada Chief Executive Officer Michael Rousseau didn’t specifically cite the U.K.’s model, he did call upon Ottawa last week to  ease travel rules.

“Starting with replacing blanket restrictions with science-based testing and limited quarantine measures where appropriate, Canada can reopen and safely ease travel restrictions as vaccination programs roll out,” Rousseau said in a statement accompanying the airline’s first-quarter results.

Under the U.K.’s system, which begins on May 17, the colour  each country is designated will determine whether and where passengers arriving from them need to quarantine.

IATA director general Willie Walsh wasn’t impressed by the U.K.’s plans and in a statement issued by the airline industry association he was quoted as saying: “It is very disappointing and frankly not worth commenting on.”

Meanwhile, some U.K. scientists don’t have a lot of confidence in the new scheme saying that it’s little more than window dressing and won’t prevent the arrival of new COVID variants into the country.

“While in the UK, we look forward to less disease and fewer restrictions, this is not the case in most of the world,” Professor Martin Hibberd, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine,  told The Guardian. “Indeed, for many countries infections are likely to come in waves for at least another year and perhaps longer.”

“As a result, imports are likely to become an increasingly important part of new transmissions circulating within the U.K. We should develop an effective strategy to cope with the competing desires to allow international travel, while keeping circulating virus in the U.K. to a minimum,” he said.

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