Switzerland, Canada and Denmark were among seven countries added to the UK travel green list in the last update from the UK government, opening up more quarantine-free holiday options for Brits.
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Here’s what you need to know about how the system works and when the travel list will next be reviewed.
How does the traffic light system work?
The travel traffic light system was introduced earlier this year to divide countries into green, amber and red lists, based on the coronavirus risk in each location, with different rules 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.
As of 19 July, children and adult arrivals from amber list countries who have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus do not have to quarantine on their return to England. They do still have to book and take a day two test, and isolate should they receive a positive result.
Arrivals from red list 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.
Since 2 August, fully vaccinated travellers from the US and European Union have no longer had to self-isolate when arriving in the UK from an amber list country. The rule change was announced as the government said it would help to reunite family and friends.
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 Thursday 26 August. The changes from the latest review came into effect from 4am on Monday 30 August.
The next review of travel restrictions is expected to come on Thursday 16 September.
Any changes that are announced will likely come into effect from 4am on the following Sunday or Monday.
What time will the travel announcement be made?
While no time for the next travel update has been confirmed, previous travel announcements have typically taken place late in the afternoon, at around 5pm.
However, unlike other major updates throughout the pandemic, the travel announement tends not to be accompanied by a government press conference.
Changes to the travel lists are instead announced on Twitter by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
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 changes were made in the last review?
The Azores, Switzerland and Canada joined the green list on 30 August, alongside Denmark, Finland, Liechtenstein and Lithuania.
While Canada’s addition will likely see more Canadian visitors head to the UK, the North American country still has an entry ban in place for British nationals.
The recent changes mean that travellers arriving from these destinations no longer have to self-isolate on arrival in the UK, regardless of whether they are fully vaccinated.
However, it is still a requirement to take a pre-departure Covid-19 test and day two tests when travelling to green list locations, as well as completing a passenger locator form.
Thailand and Montenegro were both added to the travel red list on 30 August, meaning arrivals must now stay in a quarantine hotel for 11 days and take mandatory Covid tests, at a cost of more than £2,000.
The change comes due to the recent increase in coronavirus rates in these countries, posing a higher risk to UK public health.
The government explained: “The high rates combined with lower levels of published genomic surveillance in Thailand and Montenegro than other countries mean that an outbreak of a new variant or existing variants of concern (VOC) or variants under investigation (VUI) cannot be easily identified before it is imported and seeded across the UK.”
As for the amber list, no new additions were made in the last update, meaning popular tourist spots, including Spain, France and Greece, still have quarantine restrictions in place for unvaccinated travellers.
Those who are not fully vaccinated against Covid-19 must self-isolate at home for 10 days after returning from an amber list country, and must take one pre-departure test and two post-arrival tests.
If you have been fully vaccinated, you do not have to self-isolate but must still take a coronavirus test in the three days before travel, a test after arrival, and fill out a passenger locator form.
When will the traffic light system be reviewd?
The current system which sees countries categorised as green, amber or red will reportedly change to a more two-tier system.
The new system will reportedly allow fully vaccinated travellers to visit countries with similarly high vaccination levels as in the UK, without having to quarantine.
This so-called ‘go’ list would likely include countries currently categorised as green or amber. It is expected that the red list category, which is in place for countries the government says should not be visited, will remain and form the ‘no-go’ list.
As well as a more simplified approach to foreign travel, it is also expected that the government will announce post-holiday PCR tests will no longer be required for fully vaccinated travellers.
PCR tests must currently be taken on the second day of arrival in the UK from overseas and cost around £70 on average.
It is understood that these will instead be replaced by lateral flow tests which are free.
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