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COVID-19: Latest on the UK Travel Restrictions

As we are all now accustomed to, when it comes to UK COVID-19 travel restrictions, new developments are occurring almost on a daily basis. For anyone who is planning to come to the UK, travellers from the UK planning to return home, and those contemplating booking an overseas trip, it pays to keep up to date with the latest developments. Indeed, it may even be worth consulting a crystal ball such is the sometimes unpredictable decision-making emanating from the Home Office. In this article, we will take a look at the latest UK COVID-19 travel restriction news for anyone planning an overseas trip or who is coming to the UK.

Door Now Open To US And EU Travellers

On 28th July 2021, the UK government, in what many see as a bold move, effectively opened the borders to travellers from Europe and the United States. The latest Home Office guidance states, “The UK government has today (28th July 2021) announced that passengers arriving from amber countries who have been fully vaccinated in Europe (the EU Member States, European Free Trade Association countries, and the European microstate countries of Andorra, Monaco and Vatican City) and the USA will not have to quarantine when entering England, as part of a range of new measures designed to continue to drive forward the reopening of international travel, set out as part of the second Global Travel Taskforce checkpoint review”.

The new measures came into force at 4 am on 2nd August 2021.

The announcement did not represent a blanket opening of the border for all, however. Travellers who have been vaccinated in Europe or the US but are from amber-listed countries still need to have a COVID-19 test before departing and a PCR test on or before their second day after arrival in the UK. The rules also confirm that those entering from the US will need to show evidence of their legal residency in the US on arrival at the UK border.

Amber Watch-List Abandoned

In another significant development, the Home Office has decided not to proceed with the idea of producing a list of currently amber countries which are at risk of switching to red. While the concept would have perhaps given certainty to some planning a trip to an amber-listed country that they will not be caught unawares while out of the UK, the idea was abandoned as it is deemed to be too complex and confusing. Some leaders in the travel sector want to see more countries going green rather than implementing a travel system that may lack clarity. As quoted by BBC News, the chief executive of the air travel industry body Airlines UK Tim Alderslade backed Boris Johnson’s desire for a simple approach to travel guidance; “This is a victory for common sense. The PM has hit the nail on the head - people want a clear and consistent travel system that they can understand and that is workable”. A green watch-list is still in place, however.

What Is The Latest On The COVID-19 Traffic Light Travel System?

The traffic light system remains in place at present, with the current rules meaning that travellers from green listed nations do not need to self-isolate, but they do need to have a pre-departure test and show evidence of a negative test. They are also required to complete a passenger locator form and have a PCR test two days after arriving in the UK.

Those from amber-listed countries are required to have a COVID-19 test three days prior to returning to the UK and a test two days after arriving. People who are fully vaccinated (and received their vaccines in the UK, the US, and most European countries) do not need to self-isolate. Evidence of having received a final jab at least 14 days prior to arrival is needed. Those who do not still need to self-isolate for ten days (it is possible to shorten this time by using the Test and Release Scheme).

Under the rules for red-listed countries, travellers entering the UK must take a Covid-19 test before departure, show evidence of a negative result, complete a passenger locator form, and self-isolate for ten days in a government-approved quarantine hotel. The current rates for these hotels are £1,750 (for adults), £650 (for additional adults or children over 11), and £325 for younger children.

There are 30 green listed countries (as of 5th August 2021):

Anguilla, Antarctica/British Antarctic Territory, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Barbados, Bermuda, British Indian Ocean Territory, Brunei, Bulgaria, Cayman Islands, Croatia, Dominica, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Grenada, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel and Jerusalem, Madeira, Malta, Montserrat, New Zealand, Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands, Singapore, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, Taiwan, Turks, and Caicos Islands.

It should be noted that over half of these green-listed countries are at risk of turning amber.

Other Significant Changes Announced On 4th August Are As Follows:

  • From 8th August 2021, travellers from France will no longer need to quarantine if they have been fully vaccinated in the UK, Europe, or the US, nor will they need to take a day 8 Covid-19 test
  • Several countries will be moving from the amber to the red list on 8th August 2021, including Mexico, Georgia, Mayotte & Réunion (both French overseas territories in the Indian Ocean)
  • Several countries will be moving to the green list on 8th August 2021, including Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Romania, and Norway
  • Several countries currently on the red list will be moving to the amber list on 8th August 2021, including India, Bahrain, Qatar, and the UAE

A complete list of amber and red countries can be found on the Home Office website.

Wrapping Up

With the UK currently trying to open its borders, but other countries seeing growing outbreaks of the Delta variant of COVID-19 (such as Australia), it is inevitable that the UK’s COVID-19 travel restrictions will continue to evolve over the coming year and, likely, well beyond. Until most countries have established a high rate of vaccination, vigilance will be vital in our globally interconnected world. With the case rate in the US now increasing again, from around 13,000 per day to now over 100,000 per day, it is not out of the realm of possibility that the UK may be forced to reapply US travel restrictions. We will continue to keep you up to date with developments as they happen.

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