International travel has now resumed across the UK, with a new traffic light system currently in force.
The system, which was introduced along with a further easing of lockdown restrictions earlier this month, divides countries into green, amber, amber plus and red lists, with different rules applied to each.
There are reports Spain could move to the amber plus list while hopes have been boosted by speculation of quarantine-free travel for fully vaccinated people travelling from the EU and the US to the UK from 16 August.
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Here’s what you need to know about how the travel traffic light system works, and when the travel list will be updated.
How does the traffic light system work?
The traffic light system categorises countries into green, amber and red lists, with different quarantine restrictions applying to each.
For green listed countries, arrivals need to take a pre-departure Covid test, as well as a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test on or before day two of their return to the UK.
However, travellers will not need to quarantine, or take any additional tests, unless they receive a positive result.
Arrivals from amber listed countries will need to quarantine for a period of 10 days at a designated place of their choosing and take a pre-departure Covid test, as well as a PCR test on or before day town and on or after day eight. There will be an option to take an additional test on day five to end-self isolation early, except for those travelling to Scotland.
However, as of 19 July, children and adults who have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus do not have to quarantine on their return to England from amber list countries.
A new category – amber plus – was introduced for UK travellers returning from France, with speculation Spain and Greece might also be added to the list.
UK travellers must quarantine for up to 10 days when they arrive home regardless of vaccination status. PCR tests will also need to be taken on or before day two of arrival and another on day eight. Fully vaccinated people can take a second PCR test on day five and leave quarantine early if the result is negative. But they must still take one on day eight.
Arrivals from red listed countries must stay in a managed quarantine hotel for 10 days, take a pre-departure Covid test and a PCR test on or before day two, and on or after day eight.
Travellers can only enter the UK from red list countries if they are British or Irish National, or have UK residence rights.
When will the travel lists be reviewed?
The latest travel update was announced at on the evening of 14 July, with the changes taking effect on 4am on Monday 19 July.
The travel reviews are scheduled to take place every three weeks, meaning the next update should take place on 4 August and may see more travel options open up.
What criteria is looked at?
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
Which changes were made in the latest review?
Bulgaria and Hong Kong were both be added to the green list from 4am on 19 July, meaning travellers will not have to self-isolate on their return to the UK, regardless of their vaccination status.
Croatia and Taiwan were added to the “green watchlist”, which means they are at risk of being moved from green to amber.
The Balearic Islands and British Virgin Islands were also be moved from the green list to amber due to a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases.
As for the red list, Cuba, Indonesia, Myanmar and Sierra Leone were added on Monday. This means that visitors who have departed from, or transited through these countries and territories in the previous 10 days will be refused entry into England.
Only British and Irish citizens, or those with residence rights (including long-term visa holders), will be allowed to enter and must stay in a government-approved facility for 10 days.
Speaking about the change to the Balearic Islands, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Surely no one can be out there thinking we can travel and just rely on things not changing.
“When we see things change for the safety and security of everyone back home we do need to react and act, and that’s what we’re doing today.”
The Scottish and Welsh governments confirmed they were taking the same move as England, while Northern Ireland was expected to issue a statement later on Wednesday.
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