End of traffic light system for international travel

Posted: 20 September 2021 | | No comments yet

The UK government is to introduce a simpler and cheaper international travel system from a traffic light to a two-tiered system, due to the UK’s successful domestic vaccine rollout.

New, clearer two-tiered system for international travel

The Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, has announced a simplified system for international travel considering the success of the UK’s domestic vaccine rollout, providing greater stability for industry and passengers.

The current traffic light system will be replaced by a single red list of countries and territories, which will continue to be crucial in order to protect public health, and simplified travel measures for arrivals from the rest of the world from 4 October 2021 at 04.00.

Testing requirements will also be reduced for eligible fully vaccinated travellers, who will no longer need to take a pre-departure test (PDT) when travelling to England from 4 October at 04.00.

From the end of October 2021, eligible 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. The government wants to introduce this by the end of October 2021, aiming to have it in place for when people return from half-term breaks.

Anyone testing positive will need to isolate and take a confirmatory PCR test, at no additional cost to the traveller, which would be genomically sequenced to help identify new variants.  

Testing for unvaccinated passengers from non-red countries will include pre-departure tests, day two and day eight PCR tests and a test to release remains an option to reduce self-isolation period.

From 4 October 2021, England will 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 U.S. and E.U.

Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary said: “The changes mean a simpler, more straightforward system. One with less testing and lower costs, allowing more people to travel, see loved ones or conduct business around the world while providing a boost for the travel industry.”

“Public health has always been at the heart of our international travel policy and with more than eight in 10 adults fully vaccinated in the UK, we are now able to introduce a proportionate updated structure that reflects the new landscape,” added Shapps.

As part of the third Global Travel Taskforce checkpoint review, the new update reiterates the government’s focus on protecting its borders from the most dangerous variants and ensures continuity for industry and passengers the remainder of the year (2021). We will look to set out a further review for the UK’s international policy early in the new year (2022) to provide further certainty for the spring and summer 2022 seasons.

Conducting the final regular traffic light review before the switch to the new two tiered system, several additional countries and territories will move off the red list including: Turkey, Pakistan, the Maldives, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya. Changes will come into effect at 04.00 22 September 2021.

Passengers who aren’t recognised as being fully vaccinated with authorised vaccines and certificates under England’s international travel rules, will still have to take a pre-departure test, a day two and eight PCR test and self-isolate for 10 days upon their return from a non-red list country under the new two-tiered travel programme. Test to Release will remain an option for unvaccinated passengers who wish to shorten their isolation period.

“We have simplified the travel rules to make them easier to understand and follow, opening up tourism and reducing the costs to go abroad,” commented Sajid Javid, Health and Social Care Secretary.

“As global vaccination efforts continue to accelerate and more people gain protection from this dreadful disease, it is right that our rules and regulations keep pace.”

From late October 2021, we will also be making changes to allow passengers, who change flights or international trains during their journey, to follow the measures associated to their country of departure, rather than any countries they have transited through as part of their journey.

All passengers will still need to fill in a Passenger Locator Form ahead of travel. Passengers should continue to check GOV.UK travel guidance including FCDO Travel Advice before, during and after travel to keep up to date in entry requirements and ensure compliance with the latest COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 regulations for the country being visited.

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