The government was forecast to slash the number of red list destinations this week in a fresh easing of travel restrictions following abolition of the green and amber traffic light categories from Monday.
However, it was unclear how far Foreign Office (FCDO) advice would align with a reduced red list given it retains advice against all non-essential travel to non-red countries such as Malaysia and Jamaica.
The government had also still to confirm the date for removing the requirement for all returning travellers to take a day-two PCR test as Travel Weekly went to press, having promised to remove this for vaccinated travellers this month.
Media reports suggested the government was poised to open travel to “dozens of red list destinations” in its latest country review, expected by Thursday.
The Times cited unnamed Whitehall sources suggesting the red list would be cut from 54 countries to 12, while The Telegraph reported the list could go “to as few as nine”, removing hotel quarantine from all but a handful of destinations.
The industry would then be looking to the devolved administrations to align with England and for FCDO advice to match UK entry requirements.
An industry source said: “The expectations are there could be a robust change this week. There is more confidence in government that the measures are working.
“But we’ve no date yet for the PCR test removal for vaccinated passengers. Ministers know the deadlines, but the Conservative Party conference doesn’t help get ministerial sign-off.
“We have the same issue in the US where the Biden administration has yet to confirm the date for allowing UK and EU travellers into the US. We keep getting half an announcement – being told the change without the date.
“Whether they’ll tie up the PCR test removal date with the red list announcement we don’t know. That would be helpful, but we don’t know they’re ready.
“All the noises are positive. We expect more countries to come off the red list. The question is how many.”
From Monday this week, only those unvaccinated or travelling from a red destination were required to take a Covid test before flying to England. The government also confirmed the list of approved vaccines and vaccination certificates it will accept as it expanded the policy to include the UAE, Japan and Canada, as well as the EU and US.
Airlines UK chief executive Tim Alderslade acknowledged: “Things are moving in the right direction.”
But he insisted: “This is not job done. The removal of PCR testing by October half-term is critical.”
Overseas travel remains subject to destination restrictions. However, Turkey and Croatia announced the removal of the need for negative PCR tests for vaccinated UK arrivals last week, and Australia announced it would lift its ban on international travel for those vaccinated from November, leading Qantas to bring forward the restart of London-Sydney flights to November 14.
Ministers from the G7 group of countries – the UK, US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan – agreed to align travel policies and “drive global standards on international travel” last week.