Holidays have been opened up for hard-pressed Brits from 4am today – with the amber list axed, pre-departure tests axed for the vaccinated and more changes to come this month. Here’s what you need to know about the new UK travel list rules
British holidaymakers have taken a big step closer to normality after travel rules changed from 4am today.
Half-term holidays will be easier as the amber list is scrapped, while testing requirements are set to be relaxed for double-jabbed Brits.
There will also be a fresh update on the red list this week – with reports claiming it could be slashed from 54 countries to just nine.
From today the amber and green lists are being axed and the system splits countries into two categories – red list, and ‘rest of the world’.
But if you’re not double-jabbed, the rules are actually stricter – as all countries will essentially have the same rules as the old amber list.
Here’s the new system explained, plus extra changes that could soon be coming down the track.
What were the old rules that’ve been scrapped?
Until today the UK split foreign countries into three lists – red, amber and green – with rules for people arriving from each colour.
Travel to the UK from red list countries is banned, unless you are a British or Irish national or have UK residence rights.
If you enter the UK from a red list country, you must spend 11 nights in a quarantine hotel costing £2,285 per adult.
Amber list countries had two sets of rules – one set for vaccinated people and another set for unvaccinated people.
Double-vaccinated people entering the UK from amber list countries had to pay for a PCR or lateral flow test before their flight, and a PCR test within two days of landing. They did not have to isolate.
Unvaccinated people entering the UK from amber list countries had to pay for a PCR or lateral flow test before their flight, and two PCR tests – one on Day 2 and another on Day 8. They also had to quarantine at home for 10 days.
Green list returnees did not have to isolate but did have to take two tests – one before their flight and one after – regardless of jab status.
What are the new rules in the latest update?
The amber and green lists have been scrapped entirely, leaving two categories – the red list and the rest of the world.
For ’no-go’ red list countries, all arrivals must still quarantine in hotels as explained above.
But those arriving from the rest of the world will now have drastically different rules depending on if they’re jabbed.
Fully-vaccinated arrivals from the rest of the world now only have to take one test – a ‘Day 2’ PCR test after landing. There’s no need to isolate, and no need to take a “pre-departure” test before flying.
Unvaccinated or partially-vaccinated arrivals must take three tests – a pre-departure test, plus a ‘Day 2’ and ‘Day 8’ PCR test after landing.
They must also isolate for 10 days at home or wherever they’re staying, unless they pay for a fourth ‘test to release’ test to leave isolation early. This is stricter than the previous system, where self-isolation wasn’t necessary for green list countries.
All arrivals – vaccinated or not – will still need to fill in a Passenger Locator Form ahead of travel.
AFP via Getty Images)
Who counts as fully vaccinated?
Anyone who had the final dose of a UK ‘authorised’ vaccine at least 14 days ago.
These are Pfizer BioNTech, Oxford AstraZeneca (including Covidshield), Moderna and Janssen (J&J).
Those who received their complete course in the UK, EU or US get blanket recognition by the UK authorities.
So do those whose first and second doses were split between two recognised countries, such as one in the US and one in Europe.
For those jabbed in other countries, they need a digital or paper certificate from a public health body showing key details.
These include full name, date of birth, and vaccine brand, manufacturer, date and country.
The government says 50 countries’ vaccine programmes are now recognised by the British authorities including the UAE, Japan and Canada.
Will the red list be cut further?
It seems likely. The red list was cut from 62 to 54 countries from September 22, removing the Maldives, Turkey, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Egypt, Oman, Kenya and Sri Lanka.
A further red list update is expected from the UK government this week, probably on Thursday.
According to the Sunday Telegraph it could cut the number of red list countries to as few as nine, opening up South Africa, Brazil and Mexico.
But we’ve been here before – reports that previously claimed the red list would be slashed dramatically did not come to pass.
Ultimately the decision will depend on an independent assessment that has not finished taking place.
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When will expensive holiday tests be scrapped?
A big part of the change was cutting the need for expensive holiday tests for the double-jabbed.
Some of this has happened already – from today, vaccinated people no longer have to take a pre-departure test on return to the UK.
But they still have to take an expensive PCR test on Day 2, and this is only being replaced with a cheaper “lateral flow” later this month.
Officials hope the Day 2 test rules will be watered down in time for Brits returning from half-term breaks abroad.
However, despite Transport Secretary Grant Shapps hinting we’ll know by October 22, there’s still no date for this to happen.
And those lateral flow tests will still cost money – as the free ones you can get from pharmacies won’t qualify. Estimates have put the cost at £30.
Could all this be reversed later this winter?
Boris Johnson’s spokesman refused to rule out the possibility of some restrictions returning on travel later in the winter, if Covid surges.
He replied: “As a responsible government we will take necessary steps to protect public health.”
However, he added: “We are well placed to take further steps with regard to easing travel restrictions and indeed we continue to have one of the most open economies and societies in Europe and the G7.”