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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 gov.uk 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)

  • Yorkieflyer says:

    But I can’t see any logic as to why a country is on/off the Red list. Who’s going to book long haul winter hols with that background of the ongoing bingo?

    • Richie says:

      I’ve started thinking about a Dec/Jan big trip, how far east or west do I go in case I get stuck and need to work remotely is a big concern.

  • WearyTraveller says:

    BA holidays now has hotel availability in Turkey. I just got off a 1.5h call with BA where they cancelled my existing flight, used the voucher generated from the cancellation and another voucher I had from another flight and booked a BA holiday from Manchester to Isranbul (hotel + flights) for hopefully double tier points. Fingers crossed 🙂

  • Trystan says:

    It’s an absolute farce the day 2 test on arrival. Whilst the U.K. is currently the 4th highest infected country in Europe, most countries don’t require any testing on arrival from the U.K. just a fully vaccinated certificate! Yet I’m expected to pay for a test returning from Finland in a few weeks where infection rates are 6 times lower and I have been double jabbed. It’s a complete joke!!

    • Lady London says:

      Not a joke: corruption incompetence and jingoism

      • Lady London says:

        Would have been medically safer to insist people get tested before they come back to the UK on the plane, train or whatever. Keeping other passengers safer.

        But that would mean money paid for the pre-flight tests remains abroad. This new ruling of testing on / before Day 2 but after arrival keeps money in the UK.

        B*gg*r protecting public health at the most sensible point. If you’re really putting in measures to protect public health then by Day 2 you’ve slready brought the disease into the country instead of being stopped boarding the plane.

  • Roy says:

    Rob, what you don’t mention explicitly, that could probably do with a clearer mention, is that Day 8 tests have also been scrapped for fully vaccinated passengers as from 4 October.

    Re Day 2 lateral flow tests, my understanding is that, when this comes into force, the expectation is that there will be a legal requirement to get a followup PCR test (for free, on the NHS) if you test positive on the lateral flow test. This is to ensure that they continue to have the ability to do genetic sequencing of coronavirus samples of incoming travellers, to help with tracking variants.

    • MW says:

      Day 8 tests for fully vaccinated haven’t been required for a while. Amber required Day 2 test only (no isolation)

      • Roy says:

        Oh, sorry, so it got dropped alongside the dropping of the self-isolation requirement for vaccinated amber, I guess? I missed that – or perhaps knew at the time, and then forgot 🙂

      • Andrew says:

        They were dropped over 2 months ago!

    • Rob says:

      They have already been scrapped. We only did a Day 2 returning from Spain the other week.

  • Trystan says:

    It’s an absolute farce the day 2 test on arrival. Whilst the U.K. is currently the 4th highest infected country in Europe, most countries don’t require any testing on arrival from the U.K. just a fully vaccinated certificate! Yet I’m expected to pay for a test returning from Finland in a few weeks where infection rates are 6 times lower and I have been double jabbed. It’s a complete joke!!
    The only reason they took the pre departure test away is because those Tory friends that sell these rip-off tests won’t loose so much revenue from scrapping this!

    • sayling says:

      So what’s different from when you booked the tickets?

      As for this being a farce, there are still a number of countries that require testing before arriving there and some won’t even let anyone in. Pointless arguing about what other countries are doing, when some have even more draconian restrictions in place

  • Save East Coast Rewards says:

    “ If you are not fully vaccinated, I would be cancelling all your travel plans because even a quick hop to Paris will require 10 days of quarantine”

    That’s the case now though. Effectively for unvaccinated people the green list is abolished and all non-red countries are amber

    • Roy says:

      Right. We will soon effectively have green people and amber people rather than green countries and amber countries 🙂

      • Sammyj says:

        Exactly that. My friend is not vaxxed for genuine medical reasons, so has been incredibly careful, but booked a trip to Latvia when it went green. Now that’s got to be scrapped, as she can’t do 10 days (or risk the day 5 delay) plus pay for all those tests for a weekend away.

  • FlightDoctor says:

    I’m struggling to find the latest gov updates concerning children. Thinking of the new implications for our booked half term trip to Canaries. My wife and I are fully vaccinated but unclear how the kids will now be managed…

  • Jenny says:

    How quickly can you take the 2nd jab? (after the 1st one)

    • Jasdev says:

      It is an 8 week wait now. Some vaccination centres will let you have your 2nd as early as 3 weeks later; however my local centre was strict, I could not even get my 2nd on the 7th week after my first.

    • Jonathan says:

      I’d really advise against trying to expedite a 2nd dose for the purpose of a holiday. It’s accepted wisdom in the field of immunology that an increased dose interval provides stronger & longer protection. Presumably if not fully vaccinated now then you don’t belong to a group that will be getting a booster so for the sake of your health I’d want maximum protection over the coming winter & spring.

      Before anyone says the Pfizer/Moderna trials were done with a 3-4 week interval then yes they were but that was in the pre variant era & they were designed (for commercial reasons) to generate positive results ASAP. Look at Israel to see the medium term impact of a short dose interval.

      If you are currently able to manage your personal risk levels by eg. WFH & sitting outside at a pub/restaurant etc then I’d favour leaving it 10-12 weeks so you’re better protected when your boss starts asking you to get back in the office 3 days a week & eating/drinking outside isn’t really an option.

      • Tracey says:

        Agree with this, but to add the sweet spot for Pfizer is 8 weeks, so no need to delay much beyond that. For AZ it may be a couple of weeks more, but I doubt there are many who are searching for second dose AZ at the moment. Not enough data on second jab Moderna, but should be similar to Pfizer.
        For those who really really want a second jab early, Reddit r/getjabbed is the place to look.

        • Jonathan says:

          The 8 weeks was what government settled on to balance speed of protection vs Delta (where 1 jab is very limited) vs efficacy/duration & supplies. If I could control my risks by essentially limiting interactions at close quarters indoors I’d take the original interval of 10-12 weeks (assuming I was also young & healthy). Either way I wouldn’t be looking for 2-3 weeks for sure.

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