A major shake-up to UK rules on international travel has been announced by the government which will benefit fully vaccinated holidaymakers.
Travelling abroad will become simpler and cheaper for those fully jabbed against Covid-19, as a new simplifed system for travel will be introduced in light of the success of the UK’s vaccine rollout.
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Here’s what you need to know about how the current system works and when the travel list will next be reviewed.
How does the system for international travel work?
The current travel traffic light system will be replaced by a single red list of countries and territories from 4am on Monday 4 October, while countries previously on the green and amber lists will be classed as ‘rest of the world’.
Testing requirements will be reduced for eligible fully vaccinated travellers, who will no longer need to take a pre departure test when travelling to England.
From the end of October, fully vaccinated passengers, and those with an approved vaccine from a select group of non-red countries, will be able to replace their day two test with a cheaper lateral flow test, reducing the cost of tests on arrival into England.
Anyone who tests positive will need to isolate and take a confirmatory PCR test, at no additional cost, which would be genomically sequenced to help identify new variants.
Testing for unvaccinated passengers from non-red countries will continue to include pre-departure tests, day two and day eight PCR tests, although test to release will remain an option to reduce the self-isolation period.
Those who are not double-jabbed will also be required to self-isolate even if returning from a country previously on the green list, which is not currently the case.
From 4 October, England will also welcome fully vaccinated travellers from a host of new countries – who will be treated like returning fully vaccinated UK travellers – including 17 countries and territories such as Japan and Singapore, following the success of an existing pilot with the US and Europe.
The Welsh Government is considering following the UK Government’s guidance, but Scotland has said it will not be removing the requirement for people who are fully vaccinated to take a pre-departure test before returning from non-red list destinations.
However, both administrations said they would mirror the changes to the red list destinations.
Northern Ireland is yet to announce whether it will be making any changes to travel rules.
When will the travel lists be reviewed?
The travel reviews are scheduled to take place every three weeks, with the last update having taken place on Friday 17 September. The changes from the latest review will come into effect from 4am on Monday 4 October.
Unlike other major updates throughout the pandemic, the travel announement tends not to be accompanied by a government press conference, with changes instead being announced on Twitter by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
The major announcement on 17 September looks set to be the final such review for the foreseeable, with any future changes only expected to be announced if new Covid variants of concern are identified which mean that restrictions may need to be re-assessed.
What is the criteria for the travel lists?
The decision on which countries are added to each list is based on a range of criteria, taking into account public health advice and the Joint Biosecurity Centre’s assessment of the latest Covid data.
The criteria for the lists includes:
- The percentage of a country’s population that have been vaccinated
- The rate of infection
- The prevalence of variants of concern
- The country’s access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing
What other changes have been announced?
Eight countries will be removed from the red list from 4am on Wednesday (22 September).
From this date, travellers from Turkey, Pakistan, the Maldives, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya will also no longer be required to enter hotel quarantine.
The changes, which come following intense pressure from the travel industry after another summer severely hit by the Covid rules, are designed to kick in time for the October half-term break.
All passengers will still need to fill in a passenger locator form ahead of travel.
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