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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)

  • Jenny says:

    Do you get PLF code when booking self swap on site?

    • Tracey says:

      If you are booking an approved day 2 test, then you do. If you are booking a fit to fly test then it won’t give you a code.

  • Daniel says:

    Unvaccinated travellers will have to have tests and self isolate for 10 days even if negative. No provision for previous infection and natural immunity.
    Vaccinated travellers can just happily keep getting it and transmitting it.
    Another sound bit of logic.

    • Jonathan says:

      “Natural immunity” is significantly weaker & of generally reduced duration than vaccine induced so this does actually make sense. Just get vaccinated & you’ll be fine?

      • Daniel says:

        Washington Post: “ A 700,000-person study from Israel two weeks ago found that those who had experienced prior infections were 27 times less likely to get a second symptomatic covid infection than those who were vaccinated. ”

        • Hak says:

          Cool. Get the vaccine.

        • Jonathan says:

          Lots of detail lacking from your post. A) that’s a pre print, non peer reviewed study B) it’s observational (lowest quality of evidence) C) it runs counter to accepted wisdom & lots of other better designed trials which have been peer reviewed. CDC & British Society for Immunology still state vaccine better than infection.

          Potential reasons for discrepancy in outcomes include differences in population behaviour (ie. take more risks after vaccine), differences in reporting (those non vaccinated in Israel likely belong to the sceptic group so would they present for testing if not very unwell).

          Either way vaccination is the right answer as vaccine plus prior infection has been consistently shown to produce highest levels of antibodies & T-cells.

          • Jonathan says:

            If you routinely test people who have been vaccinated & infected at set intervals ie. a prospective study as already done by Oxford group then vaccine shows reduced risk of infection vs prior infection.

          • J says:

            But given the global vaccine shortage results in distribution being zero-sum – why should a previously infected, low risk person take priority over a high risk individual with no natural immunity? Surely natural immunity does enough to move someone down the priority list?

    • David says:

      My heart bleeds for them.
      Just get the vaccine.

      • VoiceOfReason says:

        It’s not that simple. What about those who got vaccinated in UAE, Turkey or many other countries not on the list? Previously they could travel through a green list country to avoid this nonsense quarantine and testing. Now they can’t. How is that fair?

    • Hak says:

      Get the vaccine and all the hassle goes away (we’ll, it is limited).

  • Sammyj says:

    I can’t find anything specific about kids also being exempt, just very vague references to it, and worried that they’ll reduce the age from 18 to 16 (and eventually 12) for what they class as a child for exemption purposes.

    • Anna says:

      They won’t do that as it would effectively exclude families from the travel market as for the foreseeable future 12 – 18s here won’t even have the option to be fully vaccinated. The issue I can see is that other countries, having vaccinated everyone over 12, will put restrictions on unvaccinated youngsters from elsewhere.

      • Yuff says:

        I read somewhere this morning that unvaccinated U18’s are exempt from isolating from 50 countries using WHO recommended vaccines

  • Neil says:

    Thoughts on likelihood of USA 16/10. Lhr/mco? Foydrive but can’t get through to BA.

    • ChrisW says:

      I wouldn’t be surprised if US is closed for Brits until Christmas. I don’t understand why they’re not allowing fully jabbed in.

      • J says:

        Unless things have changed recently, the US doesn’t recognise the AZ vaccine – just as we don’t recognise most vaccines out there eg. Sputnik. I think they would be happy to open now, but with an exclusion for those who have received AZ – but the complexity and confusion around doing that is too much hassle.

    • PGW says:

      Not seeing any sign of US enthusiasm for welcoming UK visitors so I would be amazed if the US opens up by any date in October and even Christmas might be optimistic.

  • Robert says:

    This is a real game changer for the vast majority of us who are looking forward to international travel again. Great news, Avios and 2-4-1 vouchers at the ready!

    • ChrisW says:

      If you’re vaxxed what is the big change though? Fewer and cheaper tests?

      • Tracey says:

        Removes the worry of having to test before you come home.

        • Hak says:

          This does not do this at all. You still need a negative test to get into the country (the UK) right? Hence you can be stuck in your destination until you can pass a test.

          • ReadingComprehension says:

            you don’t need it from 4 October

          • Andrew says:

            No. You won’t need a test to get in the country after 4 October – just a test once you get back at home, initially still PCR, then just a LFT.

      • Robert says:

        Yes, all steps in the right direction. I doubt I’m alone in having not travelled overseas during 20/21 due to the global pandemic. Can’t wait to get going again without the restrictive measures.

  • Ed says:

    So you can have two jabs in Bahrain at a public sector hospital and be considered vaccinated for UK purposes even though Bahrain’s public sector is only midranking in terms of not being corrupt and on a par with China or Argentina.

    Yet you can have two jabs in a Hong Kong public sector hospital which scores the same as UK in public sector corruption and still be deemed unjabbed!

  • Linda Kirkland says:

    The bar codes on the latest Scottish vaccination status letter from NHS inform is not recognised on passenger locator forms.

    • Sandra B says:

      What?! I’m off at sparrows’ fart on Monday! I’ve got the original barcode document and now downloaded the QR code. Hope something works!

  • Colin MacKinnon says:

    PCR or lateral flow on return – who cares when PCRs became “available” for £20!

    Its the passenger locator form that needs revamped to start with – far too complex for the bucket-and-spade brigade (and me!). You should hear what the people on the Clapham Omnibus say about it!

    Then there are the fears. Although you now might not get stuck abroad because of a positive pre-departure test, the fear is still there. And that fear can be that of losing your job. (and fears aren’t usually rational!)

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