Red list cut projected as simplified overseas travel system introduced

Many countries are expected to be removed from the prohibitive travel red list following today’s abolition of the much criticised government traffic light system.

The number of countries on the travel ban list could be cut to less than 12 from 54, according to weekend reports.

South Africa, Brazil, Mexico, Cape Verde and Indonesia are among nations expected to be opened up to quarantine-free travel in time for October half-term, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

Thailand could also become a quarantine-free destination, but was said to be a “more marginal call” ahead of an announcement on Thursday of the outcome of a review of the current list.

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The likely relaxation comes as the three-tier traffic light scheme is scrapped from today (Monday) to be replaced by a merger of the green and amber lists into a “rest of the world” category.

Fully vaccinated arrivals will no longer need to take a rapid test before coming to the UK.

This will end one of the main barriers to international travel, in which people must source Covid tests overseas and secure negative results no more than 72 hours before travelling.

The requirement to take a privately procured PCR test on the day after arriving in the UK will also be lifted later this month. Travellers will need to pay for a cheaper later flow test instead, cutting the cost of arriving into England.

Vaccination policy extended

The government is also expanding its vaccinated policy to a further 18 countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Japan and Canada.

The recognised vaccines are Pfizer BioNTech, Oxford AstraZeneca (including Covidshield), Moderna and Janssen (J&J).

This builds on a pilot phase with Europe and the US, and brings the total number of countries in scope of the policy to more than 50, with more countries and territories being added in the coming weeks.

Those eligible must have a document from a national or state-level public health body that includes certain information including name, date of birth and vaccination details.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “We are accelerating towards a future where travel continues to reopen safely and remains open for good, and today’s rule changes are good news for families, businesses and the travel sector.

“Our priority remains to protect public health but, with more than 8 in 10 people now fully vaccinated, we are able to take these steps to lower the cost of testing and help the sector to continue in its recovery.”

The department for Transport said: “The UK government is continuing to work with international partners as we seek to more regularly expand the policy to further countries and territories.

PLF still needed

“All arrivals will still need to fill in a Passenger Locator Form ahead of travel.”

In response, Airlines UK chief executive Tim Alderslade described the situation as “moving in the right direction” with the removal of these restrictions making it easier and cheaper for people to travel.

He added: “We’ve seen a good response to the announcement in terms of bookings and given current trends we would hope to see more countries come off the red list and further mutual recognition of vaccine status.”

But he said: “There is still much to do though – this is not job done and ministers need to keep in mind that we remain an outlier on arrivals testing for vaccinated passengers.

“In the short-term the removal of PCR testing by the October half-term week is critical, and we look forward to clarity on the start date for this as soon as possible.”

Which? Travel editor Rory Boland said: “With far fewer restrictions on where we can travel and reduced costs for tests, it’s clear these changes are likely to lead to many more people travelling. It’s essential then that the government is ready, including effective management of border queues and a testing regime that works.

“Travellers were let down badly during the summer by a dysfunctional PCR testing market that left them exposed to extortionate prices and unreliable providers.

“However, with just weeks until half-term the government has still not given further details on its plans to allow fully-vaccinated travellers to use lateral flow tests on arrival into the UK later this month.

“The issues with PCR tests must not be repeated for lateral flow testing – the government must ensure a properly functioning system is in place.”

Pablo Caspers, chief travel officer at European OTA eDreams ODIGEO, said: “The government’s plan to drastically simplify the restrictions from the UK has been a real boost for the travel industry.

“We have seen a 37% increase in searches since the announcement, showing a clear uplift in people’s confidence and appetite for travel.

“With half-term just around the corner, many people are keen to catch the last of the European sun, resulting in a significant spike in interest for destinations such as Spain, Turkey and Greece for late October.

“An increase in searches for countries in the UAE such as Dubai for later this year shows that others are eager for some winter sun.

“Additionally, the reopening of the US borders has driven a spike in interest in the country, especially for popular cities such as New York and Orlando.

“The move towards a simplified green and red list system is a big step towards the travel industry’s recovery, and with ski season just round the corner, we expect this momentum to continue.”

MoreOperators ‘baffled by red list rationale’

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