The coronavirus pandemic has affected all aspects of our lives, especially when it comes to commercial and business travel. But while things may not be back to how they were pre-pandemic, travel is back on, both to and from the UK. An overhaul of the travel traffic light system, changes to testing, and new quarantine rules mean more of us can look forward to packing our bags and getting away, whether it’s for business or pleasure. So, with these new rules coming into force, what do UK travellers need to know before they jet off?
PCR travel tests replaced with LFTs
People coming to England who are fully vaccinated no longer have to take a PCR test two days after their arrival. Instead, they will be required to take day 2 lateral flow tests by Medicspot, which are cheaper and provide a much faster result. Travellers cannot use NHS test kits for travel. This rule change also applies to people under 18, regardless of whether they’ve been vaccinated. Travellers must book their tests before coming to the UK and send a photograph of their lateral flow test to confirm the result. If their lateral flow test result is positive, they must take a PCR test to verify the result. If that’s positive, then they must isolate for ten full days.
Traffic light system replaced with a red list
When the UK lifted its travel ban, it replaced it with a traffic light system, categorising countries as red, amber, or green, depending on their risk status. The UK has now removed amber and green list countries from the traffic light system, leaving only red countries. It also took 47 countries off the red list, including Mexico, South Africa, and Thailand, leaving just seven countries:
- Dominican Republic
Returning from a red list country
Anyone returning to the UK from a country on the red list, regardless of whether they’ve been vaccinated, must quarantine in an approved quarantine hotel for ten days and 11 nights (their day of arrival is day 0). Travellers must pre-book their quarantine hotel before their arrival and pay for it themselves. For ten days (11 nights), the cost for one adult is £2,285, an additional adult over 12 years is £1,430, and for children aged five to 11, the cost is £325.
They must also take a lateral flow test on day two and day eight of their quarantine. If they test positive, they must follow up with a PCR test to confirm the result and self-isolate in the meantime. If the PCR test is positive, they must isolate for ten full days (the day of the lateral flow test is day 0).
Returning from a non-red list country
Countries previously on the amber and green travel list, combined with those removed from the red list, make up the ‘rest of the world’ category and are considered low-risk destinations. These countries are treated in much of the same way as green list countries. Fully vaccinated people returning to the UK from a non-red list country are not required to take a pre-departure test before leaving. However, they may have to show evidence that they are double vaccinated.
Anyone who is over 18 and not fully vaccinated must test themselves three days before traveling to the UK and on day two and day eight after their arrival. They must also self-isolate at home for ten days after returning to the UK.
Test to Release
Unvaccinated people traveling to the UK who want to quarantine for as little time as possible can now use the Test to Release facility and pay for a private Covid-19 test on day five to end their quarantine early (as long as their result is negative).
While UK travel rules are expected to be reviewed every three weeks, for the time being at least, holidaymakers and business travellers can look forward to enjoying international travel again.