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New travel rules released – bad news for the unvaccinated, good news for everyone else

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The Government has just published its latest review of the UK travel testing regime.

As per usual, this was originally published via Grant Shapps’ Twitter feed but the details are now on here. The press release is here.

Here are the changes. If you are not fully vaccinated, I would be cancelling your travel plans because even a quick hop to Paris will still require 10 days of quarantine …..

Travel list changes

These changes only apply to England, remember, unless the devolved authorities choose to copy the English approach.

From Wednesday 22nd September:

Eight countries will be removed from the 62-strong ‘Red List’ and placed on the ‘Amber List’:

  • Bangladesh
  • Egypt
  • Kenya
  • The Maldives
  • Oman
  • Pakistan
  • Sri Lanka
  • Turkey

From Monday 4th October:

The ‘Amber List’ is to be scrapped for arrivals into the UK. The only ‘named’ list will be the ‘Red List’, plus everywhere else.

‘Fit To Fly’ tests will be scrapped for passengers who were fully vaccinated at least 14 days before arriving in the UK.

If you are not fully vaccinated you must quarantine for 10 days on your return to the UK from a non-‘Red List’ country and take Day 2 and Day 8 tests. ‘Test To Release’ will continue at Day 5 for those who wish to pay extra. You will also be required to take a ‘Fit To Fly’ test.

‘Fully vaccinated’, for the purposes above is defined as having received, for those outside the UK, EU and US vaccine programmes:

a full course of the Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna or Janssen vaccines from a relevant public health body in Australia, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bahrain, Brunei, Canada, Dominica, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, New Zealand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea or Taiwan

Unvaccinated children will continue to be treated as fully vaccinated if travelling with fully vaccinated adults.

You will still need to fill in a Passenger Locator Form before returning to the UK.

You will still need to book and pay for a PCR ‘Day 2’ test before returning to the UK.

The hotel quarantine regime continues for people returning from ‘Red List’ countries.

From ‘later in October’ (by half term, in theory)

PCR tests dropped:

PCR testing will no longer be required on your return to the UK from a ‘Green’ country IF you are double vaccinated.

You will be still be required to take a lateral flow test within two days of returning to the UK – it is not clear if these will need to be supervised tests.

The test must still be purchased in advance and a reference number added to your Passenger Locator Form.

Transit changes:

There are plans to change the ‘Red List’ rules so that passengers can transit in those countries without triggering hotel quarantine.

This is unlikely to have any real impact given that the major transit hubs have all moved off the ‘Red List’.

Industry response

Sean Doyle, British Airways CEO, said in a statement: 

“We welcome the simplification of the traffic light system, and the changes to the testing requirements allowing UK travellers to benefit from our world-leading vaccination programme and finally giving customers and business the confidence to book the journeys they’ve been waiting for.”  

Based on the scientific evidence, with fewer than 1% of people returning from low-risk countries testing positive for Covid (lower than the UK’s rate), we urge ministers to keep this policy under review, eliminating all testing for fully vaccinated travellers as soon as possible in the future, in line with most other European countries.”

Shai Weiss, Virgin Atlantic CEO, said:

“The overdue simplification of the Government’s rules for international travel will deliver a significant boost to consumer confidence and UK economic recovery.  

“However, to ensure that Britain’s global ambitions are met, the vaccination status of those travellers receiving a full dose in countries like India and Hong Kong must be recognised, ensuring they are able to take advantage of the simplified travel rules. Additionally, the Red list should focus purely on Variants of Concern, in order to protect public health, therefore it’s imperative to rapidly and continuously remove countries that don’t pose a threat, in order to open travel back up to countries like South Africa.

“We urge the UK Government to use the Prime Minister’s upcoming visit to the USA to work with the Biden administration to remove transatlantic restrictions for UK citizens, just as the UK has done for US travellers, helping loved ones to reunite safely and businesses to restore ties with our largest trading partner. The US already allows entry for travellers from Dubai, Turkey and much of South America for example. With the high rate of vaccination in the UK – 81% of UK adults have received both jabs – there is no reason to deny UK citizens from entering the US safely, and no reason to delay.” 

Sir Tim Clarke, President of Emirates, said:

“It’s critical that the travel sector and governments across the world continue to work together to rebuild traveller confidence and today’s announcements are a hugely important step towards that. Making international travel simpler and more affordable will not only benefit those desperate to reconnect with loved ones, but will be instrumental in the recovery of the economy.”

“Since the UAE was moved to the UK’s Amber List, we’ve seen a huge surge in demand and Emirates quickly resumed operations across the UK with plans to operate 77 flights a week between the UK and Dubai by the end of October. Dubai is open and we’re ready to welcome travellers thanks to the comprehensive measures that have been put in place in the air, on the ground, and throughout Dubai. We have been working closely with partners around the world, including IATA, to help passengers easily and securely manage their travel in line with any government requirements for COVID-19 testing or vaccine information.”

“We will continue to work with the UK to meet all of its criteria, and hope that those vaccinated in the UAE will soon be considered in the same manner as those vaccinated elsewhere.”

Comments (223)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Richie says:

    So ‘later in October’ could be good news for those who can take a latter October school half term break.

  • Steve S says:

    How come fully vaccinated from UAE Are not recognised,any ideas

    • Craig says:

      Sinopharm and Sputnik?

      • Steve S says:


        • Craig says:

          They’ve used all three, the use of the two I mentioned is probably why?

          • Blenz101 says:

            But they specify the acceptable vaccine type in the guidance and the UAE Al Hosn app is far more robust than a paper vaccination card from the US. Don’t see any logical reason not to accept those vaccinated in the UAE with Pfizer for example.

          • WearyTraveller says:

            They’ve also used AstraZeneca and Moderna lol. So three out of 5 vaccines used in the UAE should be allowed. Makes zero sense to me. Same goes for Turkey vaccine recognition.

          • Navara says:

            The UK confirmed an overhaul of its Covid travel rules for England to abolish the traffic light system for international travel from October 4, allowing travellers from 17 new countries and territories to enter under rules for the fully vaccinated.

            James Cleverly, a Foreign Office minister, acknowledged the UK was working with the UAE to resolve the status of travellers ahead of the changes coming into effect.

            “We are finalising our arrangements with the UAE to include their nationals and residents in our plans to open up to the fully vaccinated from other countries from 4 October,” he wrote on Twitter on Friday.

    • Craig says:

      Almost certainly to do with our ability to differentiate rather than the UAE app?

      • Blenz101 says:

        Well the app and vaccination certificate shows the brand of vaccine given so not really sure what there is to differentiate.

  • Andrew says:

    Dubai still requires a test before departure from there to UK (meaning their rules, not ours)?

  • Aaron C says:

    What’s the betting that we will have to pay £30 for a special lateral flow test from a dodgy testing firm? The same test that you can order 7 a day of for free on the NHS!

    • Russ says:

      C’est la vie

    • Ken says:

      Someone pays for lateral flow test, ie the taxpayer. They’re not ‘free’

      They were originally used for rapid “surge” testing in area where the virus was out of control. I expect most would think this had some use as a public health measure.

      Not sure as many would think the taxpayer should be paying for tests to allow people to go on their jollies.

      They are also supposedly going to be chargeable from 2022 and the cost according to the F Times was estimated at £5- £30 (which seems curiously imprecise).

      • bafan says:

        If they think people will pay for them I have some magic beans to sell them!

      • Aaron C says:

        How’s it paying for people to go on holiday? The suggestion is that everyone tests twice a week anyway (or something like that). If you do what’s suggested after coming back from a holiday that’s them being used as intended?

        • Chris says:

          And imagine the sheer horror of people deserving a holiday…

          No people must work at all times and never be allowed pleasure.

          Trip to pub, can use a free test. Needless commute and trip to office to suit insecurities of middle management in office, have a free test. Week in the rain in Skegness , have 7 free tests.

          Week in Majorca – you extravagant wasteful scum. Pay £50 to a ridiculous company for at this stage no discernible public benefit (beyond easing the passage for part payment of health care / benefit of private companies)

      • Sammyj says:

        They were handing them at the Leeds Festival – tens of thousands of them. So it’s ok to use them for kids to get pissed at a concert but not for people to go to and fro?

      • Nick Booker says:

        As part of my job I distribute lateral flow tests in an area which has had a poor take up of vaccines. We have between 25 and 40 boxes a week. There are 54 packs in each box, each pack contains 7 tests. If you put it into terms that you have to pay 20 euro for the same test to fly home ( soon to change) that 140 euro per pack value.
        You would be amazed (or not) how many people ask ” are they free” before accepting them.
        In short everyone wants something for nothing, there is a cost, to me you and every other tax payer for the NHS to buy these things from China.
        I believe other countries charge there population for them so why not here?

        • Chris says:

          And you think they are actually paying 140 euros?

          Doesn’t the fact that the government don’t care if you do the test or what the result are, just that you’ve had a reference and bought one not tell you everything you need to know about the tests.

          The reason why not here is answered already in your comment; we do pay for them through a fair system of taxation.

          • Nick Booker says:

            Hi Chris no I know that the govt do not pay 140 euro, I was making a comparison to what the ‘value’ is when travelling.

    • ChrisW says:

      There’s a loophole on the PLF that an increasing number of people are realising – you can enter any previous test reference number even if you’ve taken that test and it won’t pick up that it’s not a new test.
      No need to keep buying new Day 2 tests. No-one checks or cares.

      • Aliks says:

        Actually the test reference number can be completely made up, so long as it has the right number of digits. Again its because noone checks or cares.

      • Tracey says:

        Depends whether you actually want to break the law or not. You are required to buy tests and out the reference on the plf. why does everyone think it fair game to try and fool the system. Would you go into a petrol station and produce a receipt you used a month ago?

        • Chris says:

          If the government forced me to use petrol in my bicycle then yes I probably would.

          Laws change for a reason, sometimes good ones.

        • VinZ says:

          There’s also another angle. If you buy the test but don’t take it then nobody checks either. So it’s a waste of money.

      • T says:

        That could be a nice little money spinner for government coffers to go back and fine chancers.

  • Russ says:

    Do you just need two jabs to be classed as fully vaccinated or three if you come under the booster group? I’m down for a third jab but want to go somewhere warm before it’s due.

    • Graham says:

      I would imagine double dosed would be sufficient for now.

    • Ken says:

      You’ll be fully vaccinated for this purpose as long as your NHS ‘Covid pass’ is in date.

      Many fully vaccinated people won’t be offered a booster until at least November as it will be a minimum 6 months since their 2nd jab

  • Tracy says:

    Those £10 flights to Barcelona in November will do nicely (Ryanair but for a tenner I’ll bite) 😊

  • Craig says:

    Saved me some money and it’s certainly removed the pre-return uncertainty but looks like I’ll still need a day 2 PCR for after our 5th Oct return.

  • Dominic says:

    And what’s the logic for not doing the PCR change sooner?

    Solely about appeasing all the Tory donor PCR firms.

    • Blenz101 says:

      Or not annoying anybody who has already paid for one.

      • Dominic says:

        Doubt that’s part of it tbh. Wouldn’t be a massive issue as compared to the £mns this will continue to generate.

    • lumma says:

      It’s so they can “ramp up production” of lateral flow tests that you’ll have to pay for rather than using the NHS ones that most people have tons of spares lying around.

    • cinereus says:

      Yes, obviously.

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