Ministers SCRAP travel traffic light system in favour of a ‘go/no go’ scheme with a single red list of banned nations and drop pre-departure tests for fully-vaccinated – and give green light to trips to 8 more countries including Turkey and the Maldives
- Ministers today unveiled major changes to the Government’s international travel traffic light rules system
- The shake-up will see the current green and amber lists merged into one list of low-risk nations for holidays
- The double-jabbed will no longer have to take costly PCR tests when they return to England from abroad
- Expected shake-up comes after months of travel and tourism bosses calling for the system to be simplified
Ministers today announced they are replacing the current international travel traffic light scheme with a simplified ‘go and no-go’ system as they also scrapped pre-departure tests for fully-vaccinated travellers returning to England.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that from October 4 the current approach of green, amber and red will be ditched in favour of a single red list of banned countries and a ‘rest of the world’ category for everywhere else.
Meanwhile, people who are double-jabbed will no longer need to take a pre-departure test before arriving back in the country from a non-red list nation.
Then by the end of October the day two PCR test requirement for returning travellers will be replaced with a cheaper lateral flow test. PCR tests offered by airlines currently range in price from about £40 to £70 while rapid antigen tests are about half that amount.
The Government has also slashed the number of countries on the red list, with eight nations being removed from 4am on September 22, including Turkey, Pakistan and the Maldives.
The new system will be built on vaccination status, with people who are fully jabbed enjoying considerably more travel freedom than their unvaccinated counterparts.
Fully-vaccinated travellers visiting a ‘rest of the world’ category country will have to book a day two coronavirus test for when they return, but they will not need to take a pre-departure test before coming back to England and they will not have to quarantine.
But travellers who are not fully vaccinated who are returning from ‘go’ countries will have to book a pre-departure test when returning to England, book and pay for day two and day eight follow ups and also quarantine at home for 10 days.
The shake-up means that the amber list is officially dead, with those countries joining ‘green’ nations in the new ‘rest of the world’ category.
However, the rules for travel to red list nations remain the same with returning travellers having to pay £2,285 for an 11 day stay in a Government-backed quarantine hotel.
The Board of Airline Representatives in the UK welcomed the changes, with chief executive Dale Keller saying: ‘Greater freedom of movement for many vaccinated passengers, without the anxiety of pre-departure tests and the high cost of PCR testing on arrival, will help restore traveller confidence and set the aviation, travel and tourism sectors on what is still a long road to recovery.’
Mr Keller said moving to a binary system and creating a ‘two-tier entry regime’ based on vaccination status will help bring ‘greater clarity to entry requirements’.
He said the announcement is a ‘step towards properly rebalancing international travel risk’ in the UK but warned the existing rules had ‘decimated’ passenger numbers which means firms must now try to ‘claw back lost ground’.
British Airways chief executive and chairman Sean Doyle urged the Government to go further and sweep away all testing requirements for fully-vaccinated travellers.
Huw Merriman, the Tory chairman of the Transport Select Committee, also welcomed the overhaul of the ‘cumbersome’ existing rules.
‘The need for caution is clear but with 80% of our country now vaccinated, UK travel needs a shot in the arm and this could be it,’ he said.
‘It’s a relief to see the Government move on these issues and this announcement, timed ahead of October half-term, could have an immediate impact on the UK’s travel industry.’
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps today unveiled a raft of changes to the Government’s international travel traffic light rules
Hated travel testing rules are to be torn up for the fully jabbed in time for the half-term holidays – but unvaccinated Britons will still have to quarantine on their return. Library image
Those who are unvaccinated face even tougher restrictions. They will have to quarantine on their return from all countries, even though on the ‘go’ list. Insiders hope the strategy will help to drive up vaccination rates
All current ‘amber list’ countries will effectively become green – or ‘go’ destinations –while the number of ‘red list’, or ‘no-go’ countries, will be slashed in half. This means popular holiday destinations such as Turkey are likely to open up to fully jabbed Britons next month
What are the current travel traffic light rules?
Green list: Travellers must take a pre-departure Covid-19 test and book a day two follow up after arrival. There is no quarantine requirement unless the test is positive. The rules apply even to the fully-vaccinated.
Amber list: Travellers must take a pre-departure Covid-19 test and book and pay for post-arrival follow up tests. This applies to everyone, regardless of vaccination status. The fully vaccinated must take a day two test. People who are not fully-vaccinated must quarantine for 10 days at home and take tests on day two and day eight.
Red list: Travellers must take a pre-departure Covid-19 test and book an 11 day stay in a Government-backed quarantine hotel where they will be tested on day two and day eight. This applies to all travellers, even those who are fully-vaccinated. The quarantine hotel costs £2,285 which must be paid by the traveller.
The changes to the travel rules came as:
- The vaccine booster programme got under way yesterday, with a maternity support worker among the first to receive the jab;
- Industry leaders warned that care homes will be forced to shut, break the law or drop standards if ministers fail to push back the deadline for compulsory jabs;
- Nicola Sturgeon has called in the British Army to deal with Scotland’s ambulance crisis after she was forced to apologise for life-threatening delays;
- A survey found that a majority of people believe workers will never return to the office full-time after the pandemic;
- The latest figures showed that Covid infections appear to be falling in all regions of England, even after children have returned to school.
The travel industry has been calling for testing requirements to be eased or scrapped for the fully-vaccinated for weeks.
Many countries in Europe have seen their travel industries recover much quicker than the UK’s, having already dropped PCR testing rules for double-jabbed arrivals from low-risk countries.
There has also been huge controversy over the Government’s approved list of PCR testing providers, with a litany of complaints that the tests are too expensive, and a disincentive to foreign travel.
Although the travel ‘red list’ of countries deemed to pose a high risk from new Covid variants will remain in place, the number of countries will be reduced by more than half from the current 62, opening up the vast majority of destinations to those who are fully jabbed.
Those returning from red list countries will still have to undergo a hotel quarantine at a cost of £2,285.
However, the unvaccinated face an even tougher regime from today.
At present, unvaccinated travellers returning from green list countries such as Croatia, Denmark and Germany have to take a PCR test within two days of their arrival home.
Under the new system they will have to isolate at home for ten days and take PCR tests on both day two and day eight, as they currently do for amber list countries.
The changes will be in place in time for the October half-term.
This evening a government source said the shake-up reflected growing confidence in the effectiveness of the Covid vaccines, coupled with a desire to cut travellers’ costs.
There will be widespread relief at the scrapping of the traffic light system. Since its launch in May, travellers have been subjected to a series of confusing and last-minute announcements.
Today’s changes could also see the number of red-list countries slashed to fewer than 30. Cape Verde, Egypt, the Maldives and Turkey are among the holiday destinations currently on the red list.
Today’s changes could also see the number of red-list countries slashed to fewer than 30. Cape Verde, Egypt, the Maldives and Turkey (pictured) are among the holiday destinations currently on the red list
Many countries in Europe have seen their travel industries recover much quicker than the UK’s, having already dropped PCR testing rules for double-jabbed arrivals from low-risk countries
Red list booking surge: Holiday sites see increase in demand for trips to Maldives, Mexico and Sri Lanka
Demand for travel to ‘red list’ countries such as the Maldives, Mexico and Sri Lanka is surging amid hopes they could be among the next destinations downgraded in the UK Government’s next travel shake-up.
Travel experts anticipate a ‘large increase in bookings this weekend’ for foreign trips if the Government goes ahead with tearing up testing rules for the fully vaccinated in time for the half-term holidays.
Under a major raft of changes to be announced today, the double-jabbed will no longer have to take costly PCR tests when they return from abroad – and will instead only need a cheaper lateral flow test.
The ‘pre-departure tests’ that travellers are forced to take before flying home are also likely to be scrapped amid a long-awaited review of the travel restrictions that will also see the controversial traffic light rules radically redrawn.
Expedia said today that Mexico is the most popular red list country when comparing this month with September 2020, with a rise in interest of 70 per cent, while the Maldives is up 30 per cent and Sri Lanka 20 per cent.
And Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, told MailOnline this morning: ‘I think you’ll see a large increase in bookings this weekend, if the Prime Minister goes ahead with the measures.’
Skyscanner said it had seen a 92 per cent increase in the last full week for return searches by UK travellers with Dubai, ‘everywhere’, Alicante, Malaga and Dublin in the top spots, while interest in Turkey has also seen an uptick.
TravelSuperMarket added that average holiday prices to Spain for this month and next are 38 per cent down on the same period in 2019 given that it remains on the amber list, but green list Malta is up 29 per cent.
Airlines UK chief executive Tim Alderslade said: ‘Getting rid of PCR testing would be a real step forward but not if we still end up with two tests you have to pay for. We need to follow Europe’s example and remove these requirements if you’ve been vaccinated.’
Charlie Cornish, chief executive of the Manchester Airports Group, said: ‘People should be free to travel again to low-risk destinations without having to take any tests – whether that is PCR or lateral flow. The time for baby steps is over.’
Travel expert Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said earlier this week that 24 countries ‘should be taken off’, including Pakistan, South Africa, the Dominican Republic, Argentina and Chile.
He added that he would be ‘very surprised’ if Turkey is removed due to ‘worsening’ coronavirus data. But coronavirus data analyst Tim White said: ‘With Grant Shapps and the travel lottery, no-one can be sure.
‘But the data firmly support Turkey being removed as it has no threat of variants and a lot of genomic sequencing.’
However in a big boost to millions of Britons hoping to catch some late season sun, it was today reported that Turkey will be removed from the Government’s red list in time for the school half-term holidays.
According to the Times, the red list will be more than halved, with Turkey one of the countries set to be removed from the list.
The country is one of the UK’s most popular destinations for late autumn/winter sun – with average highs of around 26C.
More than two million Britons holidayed in the country in 2019, Officer for National Statistics figures show. But the country has been on the red list since May.
Meanwhile, Jamaica, which is currently on the amber list, is one of the countries which could find itself moved up rather than down when changes are announced today, experts warn.
The island’s seven-day average for Covid cases has been on the rise since July, peaking at 769 cases at the end of August.
Yesterday Jamaica – a country of around 3 million people – recorded 510 new cases with a seven day average of 572.
Jamaica remained amber in the last traffic lights update, but the Foreign Office has since changed its guidance for the country and advises ‘against all but essential travel to the whole of Jamaica based on the current assessment of COVID-19 risks’.
The Caribbean island of Grenada, which is currently on the green list, is also at risk of being move on to the red list, according to data expert Tim White.
Jamaica, which is currently on the amber list, is one of the countries which could find itself moved up rather than down when changes are announced today, experts warn. Pictured: Montego Bay in Jamaica
The Caribbean island of Grenada (pictured: St George’s Grenada) , which is currently on the green list, is also at risk of being move on to the red list, according to data expert Tim White. Covid figures have spiked since the start of September, with the country’s seven day average rising from 39 cases on September 1 to 164 in a fortnight
Covid figures have spiked since the start of September, with the country’s seven day average rising from 39 cases on September 1 to 164 in a fortnight.
Serbia, Kosovo and Albania, according to data expert Tim White. Mr White told Sky News that Nigeria could also be vulnerable.
The travel sector has been desperate for the testing and quarantine rules for international travel to be relaxed.
Heathrow said this week it had gone from being Europe’s busiest airport in 2019 to number 10 on the list, behind rivals in cities such as Amsterdam, Paris and Frankfurt.
Frotnline maternity support worker among the first people to be vaccinated in Britain’s Covid booster programme
A frontline maternity support worker was among the first people to be vaccinated again as Britain’s coronavirus booster programme got under way.
Catherine Cargill, who works and studies at Croydon University Hospital in south London, said she was ‘excited’ and ‘privileged’ to have received a third jab so soon.
And she said the immunity boost will hopefully allow her to continue to work, study and spend time with her family.
Miss Cargill added: ‘I braced myself for pain but it was a good surprise… This has definitely made me feel safer and more confident knowing I will be protected with antibodies in a few weeks’ time.’
The transport hub announced it recorded a 48 per cent increase in passenger numbers in August compared with the previous month.
Some 2.2million passengers travelled through the west London airport last month, up from 1.5 million in July and the highest monthly passenger total of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, the airport noted that demand was still down 71 per cent compared with before the coronavirus crisis. In August 2019, passenger numbers reached 7.7 million.
Heathrow has urged the Government to ‘streamline’ the rules for international travel, calling for the amber list to be scrapped, and a two-tier system introduced.
Under the airport’s proposals, fully vaccinated arrivals from green list locations would no longer be required to take a test, whereas those who are not fully vaccinated would need to take lateral flow tests pre-departure and post-arrival.
Only those who test positive would need to take a more expensive PCR test. Hotel quarantine would be retained for arrivals from high-risk red list countries.
Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: ‘The Government has the tools to protect the UK’s international competitiveness which will boost the economic recovery and achieve its ‘global Britain’ ambitions.
‘If ministers fail to take this opportunity to streamline the travel rules then the UK will fall further behind as trade and tourists will increasingly bypass the UK.’
Meanwhile Gary Wilson, the chief executive of easyJet Holidays, earlier this week said Britain was lagging behind the rest of Europe in terms of travel.
For example, Germany, which has low case rates, has a red list but no countries currently appear on it.
Mr Wilson told a Travel Weekly conference that the company was ‘back to pre-pandemic levels’ in Europe. He urged ministers to adopt a less restrictive approach to holidays.
He said: ‘The government throwing us scraps and expecting us to be grateful for that isn’t good enough.
‘They may continue not to listen but it shows the disconnect between the government and the industry.’
Meanwhile, Steve Heapy, the chief executive of Jet2, the UK’s second biggest tour operator, said of the system: ‘It’s impossible for customers to plan.
Winter is very popular with city breaks and short breaks, [but] people are just not going to risk it for two or three days as long as this complexity remains.’
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