New rules on international travel are now in force in the UK following a major shake-up by the government.
The traffic light system has been replaced with a simplifed two-tier system which means travelling abroad is much easier and cheaper for fully vaccinated holidaymakers.
The red list now only comprises of seven countries, meaning those who are double jabbed have more freedom to travel the world without facing quarantine restrictions on their return to the UK.
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The traffic light system for travel has been replaced by a single red list of countries and territories as of 4 October, while countries previously on the green and amber lists are now classed as ‘rest of the world’.
Those who have received both doses of a coronavirus vaccine - and unvaccinated under 18s - from more than 50 countries and territories can now enter the UK without having to complete a pre-departure lateral flow test, take a day eight post-arrival PCR test costing around £65, or self-isolate at home.
Instead, just a single day two post-arrival test is needed.
The new rules also mean that from later in October, eligible fully vaccinated travellers will be able to replace their day two test with a cheaper lateral flow rest, reducing the costs of tests on arrival back in the UK.
Those who test positive will need to self-isolate and take a confirmatory PCR test at no additional cost.
The government has said it aims to have the cheaper tests in place for when people return from half-term breaks.
Travellers who have not been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 will still need to take a pre-departure test in the three days before returning to the UK.
They will also need to book and pay for a day two and day eight post-arrival test, complete a passenger locator form in the 48 hours before arriving in the UK, and self-isolate at home for 10 days.
It is possible to end the quarantine period early through the Test to Release scheme, but travellers will have to pay for a private test on day five.
If the result is negative, and the result of the day two test was negative or inconclusive, you no longer need to self-isolate.
The scheme is voluntary and applies only to those quarantining in England and can only be taken after you have been back in the country for a full five days.
Those who do not opt into the scheme will need to complete the full 10 day quarantine period.
When will the travel lists be reviewed?
Since the traffic light system for travel was introduced, the government has conducted a review of the country lists every three weeks based on assessments of the Covid-19 risk in each destination.
The latest of these reviews came on Thursday 7 October when the government announced the overhaul of the travel system.
As such, this means that the next update should come on either Wednesday 27 or Thursday 28 October.
The changes of each review have tended to take effect from 4am four days afterwards, to allow people time to get home from a country where rules are changing if required.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the Transport Select Committee in September that the travel list reviews would continue to follow the same three-weekly timetable.
As for a review of the international travel rules, the Department for Transport said: “We will look to set out a further review for the UK’s international travel policy early in the new year to provide further certainty for the spring and summer 2022 seasons.”
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 are the rules for travelling to red list countries?
The rules for travelling to red list destinations apply whether you are fully vaccinated or not.
Those returning from a red list country or territory are required to spend 11 nights at a quarantine hotel, at a cost of £2,285 for solo travellers.
Travellers must also take a Covid-19 test in the three days before arrival in the UK and complete a passenger locator form.
These rules apply to both fully vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers.
At the moment, only seven countries remain on the red list, including Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “We are accelerating towards a future where travel continues to reopen safely and remains open for good, and today’s rule changes are good news for families, businesses and the travel sector.
“Our priority remains to protect public health but, with more than eight-in-10 people now fully vaccinated, we are able to take these steps to lower the cost of testing and help the sector to continue in its recovery.”
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