UK Loosens COVID-19 Restrictions on International Travel

By Alexander Zhang
Alexander Zhang
Alexander Zhang
September 18, 2021 Updated: September 18, 2021

The British government announced on Friday that COVID-19 restrictions for international travel will be loosened next month.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced that the traffic light system, which is currently in force, is set to be replaced from Oct. 4 by a single, reduced “red list” of destinations from where travellers arriving in England will have to quarantine in a government-supervised hotel.

People who are fully vaccinated will no longer need a pre-departure test before returning from non-red list destinations, and from the end of October they will be able to replace the day two PCR test with a cheaper lateral flow test.

The rules were revised following intense pressure from the travel industry after another summer severely hit by the COVID-19 restrictions.

Shapps said the measures were intended to strike the “right balance,” simplifying the system while managing the public health risk “as No. 1 priority.”

“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,” he said.

“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.”

Airlines and travel industry chiefs welcomed the move but urged the government to go further.

“Removing the pre-departure test coupled with the disbanding of the traffic light system will inject some much needed confidence into travel once again,” said EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren.

“However, vaccinated travellers and those from low risk countries will still have to do an unnecessary test after arriving in the UK, making travel less affordable for all. Since July 1 there has been no testing at all for vaccinated travellers within the rest of Europe, and this is why the UK will continue to fall further behind the rest of Europe if this remains.”

British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle also urged ministers to scrap “all testing for fully vaccinated passengers as soon as possible.”

The Scottish Government said it would drop the traffic light system but would not follow England in removing the pre-departure test requirement for the fully vaccinated returning from non-red list countries.

Scotland will also not copy England in using lateral flow tests on day two at this stage.

PA contributed to this report.