International travel tests to change as traffic light system is scrapped

Posted: 17 September 2021 5:32 pm

covid19 traveling

England axes amber list while day 2 PCR test changes to cheaper lateral flow for vaccinated.

Fully vaccinated travellers arriving in England won’t need to take a pre-departure test and will be allowed to use lateral flow rather than pricey PCR (polymerase chain reaction) versions for day 2 testing, transport secretary Grant Shapps announced today.

Currently, those travelling from green and amber list countries must take a pre-departure test and a day 2 PCR test when they return to the UK. Amber list country arrivals who aren’t fully vaccinated also need to quarantine and take a test on day 8 (unless they’re cleared by an optional day 5 test in England).

But today, the transport secretary said that “with more than 8 in 10 adults vaccinated in the UK, we are now able to introduce a proportionate updated structure that reflects the new landscape”.

From Monday 4 October, fully vaccinated travellers won’t have to take a test before they travel to England. And later that month, they won’t need to use PCR for their day 2 test – which must be done on or before the second day after arriving – but can opt for lateral flow (or antigen) tests which are cheaper.

The changes apply to England – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can set their own rules but are expected to follow suit.

Traffic light system to change

Shapps announced a streamlining of the existing traffic light system, which assigns the level of risk associated with travelling to each country.

Green and amber list countries will be merged into 1 “low risk” category. There will now be a 2-tier system and the red list of high-risk countries will be shortened.

There are 62 countries on the red list, but that will be slashed by 8 from Wednesday 22 September.

Turkey is among the 8 countries being taken off the red list, which comes as welcome news for travellers hoping to escape during the half-term holidays.

Also removed from the red list are Pakistan, The Maldives, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya.

Unvaccinated travellers (those that have had 1 or no dose of the vaccine) will need to quarantine at home when they return from a low-risk country, and take a test on day 2 and day 8 to prove they are not infected.

As of today, 89.3% of the UK population aged over 16 have had their first vaccination dose and 81.5% have had their second dose. Based on these figures, Shapps has found confidence in easing the need for PCR tests.

“Today’s changes mean a simpler, more straightforward system. One with less testing and lower costs, allowing more people to travel, see loved ones or conduct business around the world while providing a boost for the travel industry.

“Public health has always been at the heart of our international travel policy and with over 44 million people fully vaccinated in the UK, we are now able to introduce a proportionate updated structure that reflects the new landscape”, he added.

COVID tests for travel

If you plan on travelling abroad and would like more information on which tests you might need, see our comparison of COVID tests for travel.

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