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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)

  • LM says:

    How do the new rules work for flying OUT of the UK? If I were to head to Heathrow right now and fly to a now red list country, would I be subject to Amber return requirements or Red ones on my return, if my return flight was booked for post-4am Sept 22nd?

    Asking as I’ve travel to Turkey booked departing on the 21st, flying back to the UK on the 26th. It’s unclear to me what rules I’d be subject to on return.

    • Jonathan says:

      It’s the status on day you return to U.K. that counts. so you’re fine.

    • Aston100 says:

      Sounds to me like you’ll be returning from a non-red list country on the 26th of September.

      • LM says:

        Thank you both for the responses.

        Just want to clarify the situation. My logic is saying that I will have been in a red list country for the approx 5 hours after my flight lands, until 4am in the morning the next day when it flips to amber, thus I’d have technically been in a red list country in the 10 days prior to my arrival and would need to hotel quarantine? Or are we saying that it flipping from red to amber cancells out the fact that it was red while I was there, and would be considered amber for the whole duration of the time I was there?

      • Bagoly says:

        But in the ten days before you come back you will have been in a country that was at that time on the red list.
        That is certainly the way that Germany applies their changes in status of countries – not sure about the UK

        • Mark says:

          Not the UK, it is the status of the counties you’ve been in over the 10 days at the time your arrival in the UK which matters, hence people rushing to get back and through immigration by the deadline. Its all a bit flawed of course. You could leave a country before it goes red, and still be subject to quarantine requirements several days later if you travelled home via a green country.

          • LM says:

            Is there precedent for this? For example UK expats overseas needing to wait an additional ten days beyond the red to amber shift date before coming home to the UK?

            But from what you’re saying it sounds like I should cancel my flight.

    • Andrew says:

      The only implication is travel insurance

      • LM says:

        Thank you. I’m thinking “Moving to the amber list 4am, Wednesday 22 September. If you arrive in England before then you must follow the red list rules.” makes it fine? As I’m arriving after this? Sorry just want to make absolutely sure I’m not going to get stung with a hotel quarantine or return.

        • Tracey says:

          Your fine. When you arrive at the UK the question is whether any countries you’ve been to in the last 10 days are red at that point in time.

        • Aliks says:

          We were in this exact situation in June – they pushed Dominican Republic onto the red list taking effect 5 days after we landed in Punta Cana. We enjoyed 5 days of holiday without incident having booked the last flight out of Santo Domingo on 29th June landing in Madrid on June 30th – the day the red list took effect. Spain didnt have any restrictions for the double vaxxed, so we didnt even have to take a preflight test.

          Our plan was to spend 10 days in an Amber country then fly back the UK on 10th July. So when we filled in the PLF for the UK we faced the question: ” Have you been in any red listed countries in the last 10 days?” . The last 10 days meaning 30th June through to 9th July as they count whole days midnight to midnight rather than counting back in 24 hour blocks from the minute you land in the UK.

          I hope that helps , but roll on Rob’s introduction of decent forum package as this question will come up again and again, any my answer will be lost in the unsearchable mists of time in a few days.

  • Lady London says:

    So we don’t need a Fit to Fly test. This involves giving money in the country we fly from.

    But the British Government still wants to suck on the teat of requiring anyone who enters the UK from somewhere else to pay money to the UK Government’s friends.

    • Andrew says:

      My fit to fly was paid to Collinson in the U.K. and packed in my suitcase to take with me – most people do this as it’s much easier than finding somewhere in the county you are visiting usually.

    • Callum says:

      While I utterly despise the Conservative party (particularly Boris and his disciples), and to a lower degree the people who vote for them, I do value truth. I remember there being some kind of controversy with Tory linked businesses, but can you point me in the direction of anything that would justify such a slanderous statement?

      I used to hear similar all the time from patients (and more depressingly, a handful of staff!) in the hospital as justification for why they don’t bother following the rules/getting tests etc. so it’s a particular annoyance to me.

  • Aston100 says:

    If I’m arriving in the UK on the afternoon of 15th October, and assuming the day 2 PCR is still needed, by what date should I have arranged and paid for it?
    I’m guessing the night of the 14th is fine right?

    Knowing my luck, they’ll switch to free NHS supplied LFTs from the 16th.

    • John says:

      Before you check in for the flight, or possibly at the gate, depending on when the PLF is checked and how long it takes for the code to arrive after purchase

  • Freddy says:

    Whats this “supervised lateral flow test” – what’s wrong with just bunging it in the post for testing like PCR’s.

    • Aston100 says:

      An opportunity for a Tory crony to charge you a bit more.

      • Callum says:

        No… It’s a (half-assed, like everything else) opportunity to improve the accuracy of the test results and try and ensure it’s the right person taking it.

        • Aston100 says:

          Callum is clearly a Tory sycophant carrying out a false flag black ops job in here!

          • JDB says:

            Not sure why Callum should be called a Tory sycophant for not going along with the trope on here re alleged testing profits, allegedly going to Tory cronies. All too young to remember ‘Tony’s cronies’? It’s not a Tory exclusive.

    • Fenny says:

      I have taken any number of LFT and PCR tests while somebody watches me. I’m pretty sure that after 10 months of doing so without any of the results coming back inconclusive because I didn’t stick the swab in far enough for long enough, I don’t need someone on the end of a video call telling me what to do. Sending a photo of the test result will suffice.

      • sayling says:

        For you, in your opinion.
        But there are plenty of examples of other people using suppositories incorrectly

      • Tracey says:

        It’s a trust issue. How do you prove it was you who took the test if no one is watching?
        Plenty of stories of groups of people getting one of their group to take the test for all the party when they “need” to get home and one or more is possibly infected.

        • Stuart says:

          You don’t even need to put any sample in to a rapid test. Open the kit, put the liquid straight on to the test and you get a negative result!

  • pointsarb says:

    Shapps says that these changes “will last at least until the New Year” so does that mean that there will no further reductions this year to the countries that are still on the red list?

  • Jimmy Mac says:

    You have to admire the UK Govt in their mission to never make anything clear,. By the looks of the questions already being asked on here its quite clear these new rules aren’t as clear as the govt hoped they would be.

    • Callum says:

      The majority of people confused by covid rules throughout the whole pandemic were confused because they couldn’t be bothered to read them and instead relied on snippets, headlines and what random people tell them.

      I have a long list of issues with what they’ve been doing, but if you actually read the rules they’re generally pretty easy to follow.

    • The Lord says:

      Don’t really see what isn’t clear?

  • Paul says:

    Sycophantic comments from Sean Doyle

    “allowing UK travellers to benefit from our world-leading vaccination programme”

    It was once world leading but much of Europe has overtaken us, they have fewer infections hospitalisation sand deaths!

    I really hate this world leading nonsense that gets spouted at every opportunity by people flanked by union flags. It’s unBritish and nauseating.

    I would perhaps mind but it’s also nonsense most of the time!

  • Paul says:

    Any chance of Thailand coming off before half term?

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