International travel traffic-light system to be challenged in High Court this week

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On 17 May 2021, the Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel and Operator Liability) (England) Regulations 2021 came into force, introducing the traffic-light system of international travel. Under the traffic-light system, Ministers decide which countries would be on the Green, Amber and Red lists. Individuals arriving from Amber list countries must, amongst other things, self-isolate for a period of 10 days. That requirement does not apply to individuals arriving from Green list countries. On 17 May 2021, Portugal was one of a number of countries placed on the Green list. On 3 June 2021, Portugal was moved from the Green to the Amber list. No other countries were moved to the Green List. On 24 June 2021, a number of countries, including Malta, the Balearic Islands and several Caribbean islands, were moved from the Amber list to the Green list. Manchester Airport Holdings, which owns Manchester Airport, Stanstead Airport and East Midlands Airport, brought proceedings on 17 June 2021 in relation to the traffic-light system against the Secretary of State for Transport and the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. A number of other parties have also joined the proceedings, including Ryanair DAC, IAG, Virgin Atlantic, TUI and Easyjet. They challenge the decision-making process that leads to countries being moved to or kept on the Green / Amber lists. Rather than being a transparent process, it is argued that these decisions are opaque, leading to those in the air travel industry not being able to plan for the critical summer period. In particular, it is argued that the failure to publish all / any data, assessments and scientific advice informing the country-allocation decisions amounts to a breach of: (a) the common law duty of fairness or transparency and to give reasons; (b) Article 1 of the First Protocol ECHR. An expedited rolled-up hearing of the claim has been listed for Friday 9 July 2021. News reports of the case can be seen in the Financial Times, the Telegraph, and the Guardian. David Blundell QC, Julia Smyth and Yaaser Vanderman are instructed on behalf of the Secretary of State for Transport and the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.

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