Update on the New System for International Travel
I am writing to update you on the UK Government’s plans to further simplify the international travel system in England.
As trailed in my letter to you of 21 September, as of the 4 October, we have:
• Replaced the traffic light system with a single red list and simplified travel measures for eligible arrivals from the rest of the world based on passengers’ vaccination status;
• Removed the requirement for eligible fully vaccinated passengers to take a pre-departure test, providing that they are arriving into England from a non-red list country or territory and haven’t been to a red list country or territory in the last ten days.
The Devolved Administrations have also aligned on this policy. From the end of October, eligible fully vaccinated passengers will be able to replace their day 2 PCR test with a cheaper lateral flow test, reducing the cost of tests on arrival into England. We want to have this in place for when people return from October half-term breaks and we will confirm the implementation date shortly. Anyone testing positive will need to isolate and take a confirmatory PCR test, at no additional cost, which can be genomically sequenced to help identify new variants. I can now confirm that passengers taking postal tests will be able to send a picture of their lateral flow test as a minimum requirement to verify the test result.
Other options such as in person or video supervised testing will remain available for those that prefer that. We will provide more detail in the coming days, including a date for implementation of this new system. The Government will continue to maintain surveillance at the border through testing and genomic sequencing, so that it can respond rapidly if risks from any country increase.
Red list review
The Government has conducted the first review of the red list under our new and simplified system of international travel. As of 4am on Monday 11 October, 47 countries including South Africa, Brazil, Mexico and Thailand were removed from the red list. Given the success of the vaccination programme in the UK and the latest evidence of variants across the world, including the fact that the Delta variant is now dominant in many countries as it is in the UK, we have been able to significantly reduce the red list. However, we remain concerned about the presence of Mu and Lambda variants in the small number of countries we have kept on the red list. We will keep this list under review.
The following 7 countries and territories now make up the red list:
All passengers arriving into England from a red list country, or those who have been in a red list country or territory in the last 10 days, will have to quarantine at a Managed Quarantine Service facility for 10 days upon their arrival in England. Expansion of the inbound vaccination policy As of 4am on Monday 11 October, we also expanded our inbound vaccination policy to include eligible fully vaccinated passengers who haven’t been in a red list country in the ten days before their arrival into England, to the below countries:
In addition, we have expanded the policy to a further set of countries and territories which were removed from red list at this review:
Our inbound vaccination policy will now cover over 100 countries and territories, and eligible fully vaccinated passengers will be treated the same as those vaccinated in the UK.
Eligible fully vaccinated passengers who haven’t been in a red list country in the ten days before their arrival into England will no longer need to take a pre-departure test before their departure, a post-arrival test on Day 8 or self-isolate upon their arrival. This now also includes UN staff and volunteers vaccinated as part of the United Nations vaccine rollout.
Clinical trial participants
From the end of October, we will also recognise as fully vaccinated people participating in COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials from countries and territories including Japan, Canada, Australia and the EU, provided they can supply adequate proof of their participation. This is in recognition of their vital work in helping to tackle the virus and builds on the agreements made at the meetings with G7 counterparts that I chaired in May and September this year.
Acceptance of UK pre-departure test certification via the EU Digital Covid Certificate
As of 4am on Monday 11 October, non-vaccinated passengers arriving into England are allowed to present proof of a negative pre-departure test via the EU Digital Covid Certificate, in either paper or digital formats.
Changes to FCDO Travel Advice
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) has lifted its advice against all but essential travel for over 30 countries and territories. The change means people will be able to travel to a larger number of destinations with greater ease.
The FCDO will no longer advise against travel to non-red list countries on COVID-19 grounds, except in exceptional circumstances such as if the local healthcare system is overwhelmed. Many travel insurance companies use FCDO travel advice as a reference point in their policies – typically excluding cover for places where government advises against essential travel, however people will now be able to purchase travel insurance for a wider range of destinations across the globe.
The FCDO will continue to advise against all but essential travel for all red list countries and territories, where the risk to British travellers is “unacceptably high”. Whilst public health is a devolved matter, the Government works closely with the devolved administrations on any changes to international travel and aims to ensure a whole UK approach.