London - Britain will on Monday set out plans to restart international travel, using a “traffic-light” system as the country cautiously emerges from lockdown.

The UK has set a tentative date of May 17 to relaunch foreign travel, currently banned except for a handful of permitted reasons. This has created massive pent-up demand for summer holidays abroad. Travel destinations will be ranked green, amber or red according to virus risk, Downing Street said late Saturday, with the government to provide more details on Monday.

“We are doing everything we can to enable the reopening of our country... as safely as possible,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

The government said the new system “will help ensure the UK’s vaccine progress isn’t jeopardised and provide clear guidance for travellers”. People heading to low-risk “green” countries will simply take a virus test before and after they travel, the government said. But those going to amber or red countries will have to self-isolate or quarantine afterwards.

Health minister Edward Argar said as cases surge on the European continent, Britain would have to be “very careful” as it considered further restrictions. “One of the things we don’t want to see -- and just as the vaccination programme is working so well -- is getting new variants or risking new variants getting imported into this country,” he said. 

Currently people arriving in the UK from abroad are required to self-isolate for 10 days.

British nationals who arrive from a banned “red list” of high-risk countries face costly quarantine in government-approved hotels.

The government urged people not to book summer holidays, saying it was “too early to predict” which would be the green-lighted countries.

The government has announced it will allow a number of people to attend public events such as football matches from this month in trials of a virus certification system.