'Boost for Industry': England's Travel 'Traffic Light' System Gives Way to New Rules
The decision on a major relaxing of travel rules was announced in mid-September, when UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps stressed that the government is now "able to introduce a proportionate updated structure that reflects the new landscape".
New changes to international travel rules came into force in Britain on 4 October, stipulating the removal of the current so-called "traffic light" system. The changes only apply to England.
As of Monday, instead of the red, amber, and green lists, there will be a single red classification and "simplified measures for the rest of the world (ROW)" for arrivals into the country.
Right now, 54 nations are on Britain's red list, with the number due to be reportedly reduced to nine.
The new changes also envisage that from 4 October, passengers who are fully vaccinated will no longer need to take a pre-departure test for travelling to England from non-red list countries.
Also, from the end of October, instead of being required to take a PCR test on the second day after arrival, fully vaccinated travellers will be able to take a cheaper lateral flow test instead, according to the new regulations, Sky News reported.
Under the new rules, travellers who are unvaccinated need to take the pre-departure test for travelling to England, and still have to purchase a PCR for their day-two test. They also need to quarantine for 10 days, irrespective of where they arrive from.
Additionally, the regulations stipulate that both fully vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers are required to pay £2,285 ($3,095) to quarantine for 11 nights at a government-approved hotel after returning from a red list country.
According to Sky News, travellers entering England will have to arrange tests depending on airline requirements and their country of destination.
Commenting on the rules, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps pointed out that "today's rule changes are good news for families, businesses, and the travel sector" as the country is "accelerating towards a future where travel continues to reopen safely and remains open for good".
Shapps explained that the new measures were greenlighted thanks to Britain's vaccination-related breakthrough.
"Our priority remains to protect public health but, with more than eight 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", he underscored.
The transport secretary noted that the new rules will allow "more people to travel, see loved ones, or conduct business around the world while providing a boost for the travel industry".
Shapps was echoed by Tim Alderslade, chief executive of the trade body Airlines UK, who argued that "things are moving in the right direction and the removal of these restrictions will make it easier and cheaper for people to travel".
"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. […] 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", Alderslade added.
The new rules come after months of turmoil for the UK's travel sector, which was the hardest-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic
In early June, the Department for Transport decided to move Portugal, including Madeira and the Azores, from green to amber status in order to "safeguard public health against [coronavirus] variants of concern and protect our vaccine rollout".
This followed Prime Minister Boris Johnson
making it clear that the government will have "no hesitation" in moving countries off the green list if necessary. At the time, the list included nations that British holidaymakers could visit without having to go into quarantine after returning to the UK.