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UK COVID Travel & Testing Rules

A raft of new rules has been announced for travellers arriving into the UK, which the government hopes will boost the travel industry and help to bring travel operations back to normal levels.

Under the changes, the traffic light system has been simplified, all remaining countries are being removed from the travel red list and COVID testing requirements have been revised for fully vaccinated travellers.

Following the Department of Transport’s announcement relating to travel into England, the governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern have also confirmed they are adopting the changes.


Traffic light system for travel

The amber travel category has now been abolished, with UK travel rules now based on countries being categorised as either ‘red list’ or the ‘rest of world’.

In an announcement on 28 October, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed that the remaining countries on the red list were being removed with effect from Monday 1 November 2021; these countries are Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

This means all international travel into all four nations of the UK will come under the ‘rest of the world’ rules from next week.

This is a significant move in opening up travel since fully vaccinated travellers arriving from anywhere in the rest of the world category do not have to take a pre-departure test before their arrival.

The red list category is however being retained and countries could be added back on in response to rising COVID cases. The red list will be subject to a review every three weeks, with data – including the emergence of new variants – monitored in case countries need to be reinstated onto the red list.


What are the UK’s travel & testing rules?

UK residents

Fully vaccinated UK residents arriving back into England from non-red list countries no longer need to take a pre-departure test before their return.

They still however have to take a ‘Day 2’ test, but rather than a costly PCR test, travellers can use the cheaper lateral flow test. The LFT must be purchased from one of the approved private suppliers listed on the .gov website and the test has to be taken on the second day after arriving back.

Travellers should take a photograph of the test result and booking reference to confirm negative status.

Anyone returning from a red list country is still required to pay £2,285 to quarantine for 11 nights at a government-approved hotel.


Non-UK residents

Under new rules, fully vaccinated travellers arriving into England from countries with vaccination programmes recognised by the UK government are subject to the same rules as double-jabbed Britons and are now only required to take a single COVID test post-arrival.

By showing proof of having had a double dose of an approved vaccine and a recognised vaccination certificate travellers can take a single lateral flow test on day 2. This is welcome news for travellers since PCR tests typically cost more than twice as much as lateral flow tests.

The UK has increased the number of countries with recognised vaccination programmes to over 135, including the European nations, the USA. the United Arab Emirates, Japan, Canada, Brazil, Hong Kong, India, Pakistan, South Africa, Turkey among others.

Fully vaccinated residents in countries with vaccine programmes that are not yet recognised by the UK, and those who are partially vaccinated will still have to take a pre-departure test, PCR tests for day 2 and day 8 after arrival, and self-isolate for 10 days, with the option to test to release after 5 days.


Child travellers 

UK residents under the age of 18 do not need to show a negative pre-departure test before travel, regardless of their vaccination status.

Under 18s from any of the approved countries, whether or not they are vaccinated, also do not have to show a negative pre-departure test before travel.

Children aged 11 and over who are not travelling from one of the countries where vaccines are recognised will be required to follow the same rules as for unvaccinated passengers (see below).

All under-11s, regardless of where they are travelling from, continue to be exempt from pre-departure testing.


Proof of vaccination status

To prove vaccination status, travellers must present documentation from a national or state-level public health authority that includes certain information including name, date of birth and vaccination details

The recognised vaccines are Pfizer BioNTech, Oxford AstraZeneca (including Covidshield), Moderna and Janssen (J&J).


Unvaccinated travellers

Unvaccinated travellers over the age of 18 must quarantine at home for 10 days after arriving in the UK.

They are also required to take a PCR or lateral flow/antigen test in the three days before they travel to the UK, and take a COVID test on or before day two and on or after day eight after their return.

The Test to Release scheme remains open for unvaccinated passengers arriving in England who wish to shorten their self-isolation period.


Travellers testing positive for COVID

Travellers who test positive for COVID must isolate and take a confirmatory PCR test. This will be at no additional cost.


Travel guidance 

All travellers to the UK are still required to complete a passenger locator form before they travel.

Travellers are advised to check the latest UK guidance before, during and after travel to keep up to date with entry requirements and ensure compliance with the latest regulations.


Last updated: 28 October 2021

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