Covid travel: Traffic light system set for overhaul and travel may cheapen for double-jabbed

Credit: PA

Travelling is set to be made cheaper and more straightforward for double-jabbed holidaymakers under a shake-up of coronavirus rules.

The green and amber lists are expected to be merged to form one category of low-risk countries while the number of destinations on the red list will be reduced.

There is also speculation that fully vaccinated arrivals will no longer need to take a pre-departure lateral flow test or a post-arrival PCR test, saving travellers around £100 per trip.The expected update is due from Transport Secretary Grant Shapps later on Friday.

What other travel rules are expected to change and when?

While fully vaccinated holidaymakers could see restrictions on them lifted, those who have not have both coronavirus jabs could face new restrictions.

Currently, travellers who have not had both doses of a coronavirus vaccine must take one PCR test and are not required to self-isolate after arriving from a green list destination.

But the new rules could see them required to quarantine at home and be required to take two tests when arriving from a low-risk location, according to reports.

It is thought the changes would come into force ahead of the October half-term break.

The red list is set to be reduced - will the rules change?

Unfortunately there are still a number of countries with coronavirus situations the government is extremely concerned about, meaning red list restrictions are likely to remain the same.

It is anticipated that people arriving from red list countries will continue to be required to spend 11 nights in a quarantine hotel, at a cost of £2,285 for solo travellers.

There are currently 62 countries on that list but this is expected to be reduced.

Which countries will have restrictions on them lifted?

As countries around the world catch up with the UK's high vaccination rates, the government is keen to lift travel restrictions where it can.

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.

Green and amber list travel: What you need to know

What does it mean when a country is on the green list?

It's important to note that just because a country is on the UK's green list, it doesn't necessarily mean the country is accepting UK citizens - Australia being one example - so check with the relevant country's government website for their latest rules on tourist arrivals.

People who are travelling to countries on the green list will need to take a Covid test up to 72 hours before they return to the UK and a single PCR test on or before day two of their arrival into the UK - but you do not need to quarantine unless the test result is positive.Children aged four and under are exempt from the test.

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What countries are on the green list?

From 4am on Monday 30 August, the Azores, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Liechtenstein, Lithuania and Switzerland will be added to the green list. These are the other countries already on the list:

  • Australia

  • Austria

  • Brunei

  • Bulgaria,

  • Caribbean Islands (Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, British Indian Ocean Territory, Barbados, Dominica, Granada, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Turks and Caicos Islands)

  • Croatia

  • Falkland Islands

  • Faroe Islands

  • Germany

  • Gibraltar

  • Hong Kong

  • Iceland

  • Israel and Jerusalem

  • Latvia

  • Malta

  • Madeira

  • New Zealand

  • Norway

  • Romania

  • Singapore

  • Slovakia

  • Slovenia

  • South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands

  • St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha

  • Taiwan

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What countries are on the amber list?

No countries are being added to the amber list as part of the traffic light list changes coming into effect on Monday 30 August.There are currently more than 130 other countries on the amber list, including popular holiday destinations such as Spain, Portugal and Italy. The full list of amber list countries can be found on the UK government website.

What does it mean when a country is on the amber list?

If you're over 18 and not had two Covid vaccinations, on arrival in the UK from amber list countries you need to:

  • take a Covid test up to 72 hours before you return to the UK

  • quarantine for 10 days

  • take a test on or before day 2 and on or after day 8 after arriving in the UK.

However, if you've been fully vaccinated in the UK or under 18, you don't need to quarantine or take a day 8 test after you get back, but you still need to take a test on or before day 2 after arriving. You must have had your final dose of the vaccine at least 14 whole days before the date you arrive in England to be considered as fully vaccinated under the amber list rules.

Separate to these rules for UK citizens, since 2 August people fully vaccinated in the USA or most European countries will not need to quarantine if they have been in an amber list country in the 10 days before arriving. They will still need to take a test on or before day 2 after arriving.

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The Times reported that Turkey would be removed from the red list but Mr Charles said he would be “very surprised” by that 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.”

Heathrow said this week it has 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.

What has the government said?

Environment Secretary George Eustice told ITV News it is "right to loosen" restrictions admitted pressures on the NHS will be greater as the year progresses into winter.

"We do need to keep things under close control, monitor it. That's why the prime minister set out earlier this week his plan for the winter, some incremental steps that we will take to tighten restrictions again should it be needed."

He noted the importance of PCR tests in identifying new variants arriving in the country, but acknowledged they could be scrapped for the fully vaccinated.

He said "it's an important thing to help us detect variants of concern, but I understand the committee that looks at these things... may be considering this issue again later today.

"We always keep all of these provisions under review," he added.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “Our top priority is to protect public health – decisions on our traffic light system are kept under regular review and are informed by the latest risk assessment from the Joint Biosecurity Centre and wider public health factors.”

Will the new foreign travel system be implemented UK-wide?

The expected update on Friday will only apply to England, with each devolved nation having powers to control their borders.

Despite England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales often choosing differing border policies at the start of the pandemic, more recently they have implemented rule changes for travel announced in Westminster.

It remains to be seen whether the devolved nations will follow suit this time.

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