An overhaul of England’s Covid-19 rules governing international travel will come into force from Monday 4 October, replacing the traffic-light system.
A single red list of countries will remain, with the previous green and amber countries becoming the “rest of the world” or “non-red list”. There will also be changes to the testing requirements when returning from a non-red-list country, if fully vaccinated.
From 4am on 4 October, there will no longer be a requirement for fully vaccinated travellers to take a test in the three days before their return from a non-red-list country.
Also, from the end of October, they will no longer be required to take a PCR test on day two of their arrival in England or Scotland – instead they will need to take a lateral flow test. If the lateral flow test is positive, they will need to isolate and take a confirmatory PCR test at no additional cost.
For those who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated, there are currently no changes to the testing or quarantine requirements. This means if they arrive in the UK from any non-red-list country, they will still need to take a pre-departure test, a PCR test on day two and day eight, and quarantine at home for 10 days. If they are arriving in England, they still have the option to use the test-to-release scheme on day five.
Requirements for arrivals in the UK from red-list countries remain the same: a pre-departure test and the pre-booking of a mandatory 11-night quarantine hotel package, which will include two PCR tests, taken on day two and day eight, whatever your vaccination status.
All travellers, regardless of their vaccination status and the country they are travelling from, will also still need to complete a passenger locator form any time in the 48 hours before they arrive in the UK.
The aim of the changes, according to the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, is to simplify rules and decrease the burden on people travelling. The new regime is expected to be fully in place in time for people returning from October half-term holidays in England.
The new rules announced apply to England. The devolved administrations are in charge of their own travel rules, but they have typically been mirroring Westminster’s approach.
Aside from removing the need to take tests, the change in rules means the overall cost of travel will be cheaper. Test providers have typically charged £60 for PCR tests and £30 for lateral flow tests.
The removal of popular destinations such as Turkey from the red list will also make holidays more affordable. Having to quarantine in a hotel after returning to the UK comes at a cost of £2,285 for a single person and £1,430 for additional people over the age of 11.
Over the weekend rumours began to circulate that prime minister Boris Johnson would open up more countries for hotel quarantine-free travel later this week. The Sunday Telegraph reported that the UK’s red list of destinations would be slashed to nine from 54.
Fully vaccinated arrivals from countries including Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico and South Africa would no longer have to quarantine in a government-designated hotel for 10 days when they get to England from later in October, the newspaper said.
More changes to travel rules are expected to be announced on Thursday.