Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announces major overhaul of international travel
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announces major overhaul of international travel; PCR tests to be replaced with lateral flows; traffic light system to be scrapped; eight destinations removed from the red list. Eight destinations removed from the red list – including Turkey, Pakistan, The Maldives, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya. Holiday bookings surge as eight destinations removed from the red list in huge overhaul
The full list of destinations that have been taken off the red list
Eight destinations have been removed from the harshest restrictions on travel.
Here’s the full list of places coming off the red list:
Travel traffic light system scrapped – and changes to coronavirus tests
From 4am on 22 September, eight countries will be moved off the government’s red list. These are: Turkey, Pakistan, the Maldives, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Oman and Bangladesh.
A major relaxing of travel rules for people coming in and out of England has been announced by the transport secretary.
From 4 October, the current traffic light system of red, amber and green countries will be scrapped and replaced with one red list only.
Anywhere not on the red list is considered green and clear for travel – there will no longer be an amber list.
Also from that date, passengers who are fully vaccinated will no longer need to take a pre-departure test for travelling into England from non-red list countries.
Then, from the end of October, they will be able to replace their day-two PCR test with a cheaper lateral flow test.
Medical professionals operating on patient in ICU. Doctors and nurses wearing protective coveralls. They are at hospital during pandemic.
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Anyone testing positive will need to isolate and take a free confirmatory PCR test which would be genomically sequenced to help identify new variants.
This means the new system, which is expected to stay in place at least until the New Year, should be in effect as people return from half-term breaks.
COVID-19, travel and test concept, tube for PCR testing and tourist passport on geographic map. Coronavirus diagnostics in airport due to pandemic. Tourism and business hit by SARS-Cov-2 corona virus
The changes will apply to England only – with the Scottish government already announcing the country will not follow England in removing the requirement for people who are fully vaccinated to take a pre-departure test before returning from non-red list destinations.
In a statement, the Scottish government said: “A UK government decision to implement proposals to remove the requirement for a pre-departure test in England and to use lateral flow tests on day two have not been adopted at this stage in Scotland due to significant concerns at the impact on public health.”
Meanwhile, in a written statement, Eluned Morgan, minister for health and social services, said the Welsh government would “carefully consider” the simplified travel measures announced for England.
Those returning from red list countries will still need to spend 10 days in a government-approved quarantine hotel.
This will be the final regular traffic light review before the switch to the new two-tiered system, the government said.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Today’s 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 over 44 million people fully vaccinated in the UK, we are now able to introduce a proportionate updated structure that reflects the new landscape.”
Later speaking to reporters, Mr Shapps continued: “We wanted to bring a new, simpler, easier to navigate and cheaper system as well and so we have bought this in until the New Year at the very least and the purpose is to make it easier for people to travel without the bureaucracy, without so many tests and with a greater level of certainty – now that we have got so many people vaccinated.”
He said the change could not have been made sooner because the scientific advice did not favour it.
The regular three-weekly update of which destinations are designated green, amber and red had been due on Thursday but it was delayed by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s cabinet reshuffle.
Travel industry representatives are likely to welcome the move which allows greater freedom for individuals to travel in the lead up to Christmas.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Today we have simplified the travel rules to make them easier to understand and follow, opening up tourism and reducing the costs to go abroad.
A plane lands on the southern runway at London Heathrow Airport. US and EU travellers who are fully vaccinated against coronavirus will be allowed to enter England and Scotland without the need to quarantine from Monday. Travellers will be required to take a pre-departure test, and a PCR test on or before the second day after their arrival. Picture date: Thursday July 29, 2021.
“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.”
Shadow health minister Jim McMahon said Labour have been calling for a simplified system for international travel “for months”.
PCR tests play a crucial role in identifying variants of concern and ministers must now set out in detail exactly how they will continue this surveillance – including whether they plan to increase sequencing of tests – to ensure we do not see a repeat of the failings that allowed the Delta variant to spread rapidly through the country,” he said in a statement.
Mr McMahon added: “We all want to see international travel moving freely again, but the public deserve to hear in full how ministers intend to keep people safe and prevent any further variants that could risk the success of our vaccination programme.”
Transport Committee chairman and Conservative MP Huw Merriman said the changes are “welcome”.
“The committee has called out confusing watchlists and quarantines; criticised the delay in reaping the benefit of the vaccine dividend and puzzled over the high costs and lack of sequencing of PCR tests,” he said in a statement on behalf of the Commons committee.
Government announces huge overhaul of international travel – with PCR tests to be replaced with lateral flows
Eight destinations removed from the red list – including Turkey, Pakistan, The Maldives, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya.
Following his announcement earlier, Grant Shapps has offered some thoughts on what the new travel system means – saying it will be “simpler, easier to navigate and cheaper”.
Keeping countries on red list is ‘illogical’
Reacting to the move to open up international travel further, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has said it is “pleased to see the back of an illogical traffic light system that caused confusion and distress for travellers”.
The government has decided to scrap the traffic light system in favour of categorising countries as either red or “clear” to travel.
The WTTC said it was happy with the move, but wanted the government to go a step further.
“While this is certainly a step in the right direction, for the UK to be real leaders, the government should adopt a system based on the risk of individuals, not countries,” said WTTC president and chief executive Julia Simpson.
“Placing whole countries on red lists is illogical if you can keep the UK safe by checking an individual’s status and allowing fully jabbed people to travel almost anywhere in the world safely.”
Under the red list rules, anyone returning from these countries has to stay in a mandatory quarantine hotel.
Travel firm already seeing ‘big increase’ in winter holiday bookings
A second travel company has said it is already seeing a surge in bookings following the government’s announcement.
TUI said it has witnessed an “uptick” in bookings for Turkey – which has just been moved off the red list – as well as a “big increase” in bookings for those looking for some winter sun.
Managing director of TUI UK Andrew Flintham said the changes were a “positive step forward” and would provide “much-needed reassurance” to those looking to book trips.
However, he said the red list should still be reduced further “given no variants of concern have been identified and it remains significantly more restrictive than other countries in Europe”.
Government told to make sure testing problems ‘do not re-emerge’
Many are already reacting positively to the scrapping of PCR testing for fully vaccinated travellers, which had been heavily criticised over the past few months.
Rory Boland, travel editor of Which? magazine, said travellers had been “let down badly” over the summer by a “confusing traffic light system and a dysfunctional PCR testing market that left them exposed to extortionate prices and unreliable providers”.
While he welcomed the changes, he warned: “The government must ensure the same problems do not re-emerge if demand for lateral flow tests increases.
“With more destinations opening up for international travel, it’s important to book with a provider with flexible booking or the option of a refund if travel restrictions change at the last minute.”
Thinking about where to book abroad? Check out our COVID-19 travel tracker
With foreign travel becoming easier thanks to this latest announcement, you might be considering a trip abroad.
But it’s worth considering the COVID situation and restrictions in each country before booking your flights.
The good news is, we’ve done the hard work for you – just check out our tracker here.
Thomas Cook predicts it will see its busiest weekend this year for bookings
It looks like some people are already taking advantage of a relaxation of travel rules.
Thomas Cook has said it is expecting to see a huge boost in bookings following the government’s latest announcement.
Chief executive Alan French said bookings for the October half-term are already up more than 200% compared with August.
“Based on our bookings already today, I would expect this weekend to be the biggest of the year so far as people take advantage of the great deals on offer, the new easier rules on testing and the simplified system for international travel,” he said.
Travel update ‘comes too late for many’
We’re already seeing some reaction from the travel industry trickling in, and it’s not all positive.
Gary Lewis, chief executive of the Travel Network Group, said he welcomed the news and believed it would “hopefully have a positive impact on future bookings”.
“However, this news comes too late for many businesses who have been severely impacted by a second summer season decimated by government restrictions and uncertainty over travel,” he warned.
“Businesses have faced extreme cash-flow problems and with the furlough scheme coming to an end, travel business owners are now in an even more difficult position than last September.”
He called for the government to introduce a “Travel Business Grant” to keep businesses afloat and support workers, saying the industry could be “changed irreversibly” without help.
What do these announcements mean for those trying to travel abroad?
Our people and politics correspondent Nick Martin says the overhaul means that “travel is going to be a lot easier”.
For those who have tried booking a holiday over the summer, they’ve had to negotiate the system of booking tests and paid for costly PCRs.
But the new system will be “far simpler and more straightforward”, he says.
It does all hinge on whether you are vaccinated or unvaccinated, however.
As we explained in our previous post, those who aren’t jabbed will still have to take PCRs.
Unvaccinated people will still have to take PCR tests