The U.K. Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, has announced sweeping changes to Covid-19 travel restrictions, quarantine and testing requirements. Shapps said the changes had been made to make traveling “simpler” and to “reduce costs,” as reported by The Telegraph.
Since May 17, arrivals into England have been following a traffic light system, where countries were classified as green, amber or red. However, this system was today overhauled to simplify the process with the following changes announced:
- Green and amber-list countries will be categorised as having the same risk levels from Monday 4 October. This group, as reported by The Guardian, will be called the ‘OK for travel’ list.
- The U.K. government is keeping its red list, from which arrivals must enter mandatory ten-day hotel quarantine, at a cost of up to £2,285 per person. However, eight countries are to be removed from the 62-strong list next Wednesday, September 22 at 4am–Turkey, Egypt, the Maldives, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya. The move is good news for long-haul, winter sun operators out of the U.K.
- Vaccinated people will no longer need to take a pre-departure test if they are coming from a non-red country, nor will they need to take a PCR test on day two of arriving–starting later in October. The existing testing regulations have been particularly criticised for being onerous and because of the additional cost involved. It will now be possible to take inexpensive lateral flow tests.
- Unvaccinated passengers, however, will be very restricted by the new travel policy. They will need to take tests before departure, on day two and eight of arriving/returning to the U.K. and will also need to quarantine.
Stewart Wingate, the Chief Executive of Gatwick Airport in the U.K., responded positively to the policy, saying “we also welcome the news that day 2 PCR tests will be replaced with the quicker and more affordable lateral flow tests, which will allow us to start catching up with our competitors in Europe and the U.S.–where passenger numbers are already approaching pre-pandemic levels.” Wingate did, however, ask the government to also abolish the current Passenger Locator Form to remove travel constraints even further.
Andrew Crawley, American Express Global Business Travel’s Chief Commercial Officer also welcomed the changes but was critical about why they would be implemented in October and not immediately. Crawley said that “waiting weeks to implement reforms means our economy will miss out on billions in revenue that the travel industry could be generating–especially since this is usually one of the busiest periods for business travel.”