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United Kingdom removes pre-departure testing for fully vaccinated travellers arriving in England

The government of United Kingdom has announced that many travel restrictions for travel to England will be simplified. The dates for the simplification range from Wednesday 22nd September 2021 through to an unspecified date ‘by the end of October’.

A simpler system

For those who are fully vaccinated and those who are arriving in England, pre-departure testing will be abolished from 4th October 2021. Also, by the end of October, Shapps said that the Day 2 test will also be replaced with a lateral flow test. The date for this is likely to be of keen interest because of the dates of the October school half term holidays in England.

Red list changes

The countries on the red list have been reduced, down from 62 to 54. Countries including Maldives, Sri Lanka, Oman, Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Kenya and Egypt will move from red to green list from 04:00 hours next Wednesday 22nd September 2021.

Travel becoming harder for those who are unvaccinated

The latest changes in the entry requirements means that travel will actually become harder for those who wish to remain unvaccinated. In UK’s traffic light system, an amber country was equivalent to a green country for those fully vaccinated.

Shapps revealed that scrapping the traffic light list will move the travel rules from being country-focused to being individual-focused, meaning that all the countries which are presently green will effectively move to amber status on 4th October 2021. This also means that all passengers not travelling from a red list country will need to pay for RT-PCR tests and quarantine for at least five days upon return if not vaccinated.

News well received

The decision to simplify the travel lists and the removal of pre-departure testing for fully vaccinated travellers arriving into England have been well received.

Sean Doyle, CEO and Chairman, British Airways, said:

We welcome the simplification of the traffic light system, and the changes to the testing requirements allowing UK travellers to benefit from our world-leading vaccination programme and finally giving customers and business the confidence to book the journeys they’ve been waiting for. Based on the scientific evidence, with fewer than 1% of people returning from low-risk countries testing positive for Covid (lower than the UK’s rate), we urge ministers to keep this policy under review, eliminating all testing for fully vaccinated travellers as soon as possible in the future, in line with most other European countries.

Sir Tim Clark, President, Emirates, said:

It’s critical that the travel sector and governments across the world continue to work together to rebuild traveller confidence and today’s announcements are a hugely important step towards that. Making international travel simpler and more affordable will not only benefit those desperate to reconnect with loved ones, but will be instrumental in the recovery of the economy. Since the UAE was moved to the UK’s Amber List, we’ve seen a huge surge in demand and Emirates quickly resumed operations across the UK with plans to operate 77 flights a week between the UK and Dubai by the end of October. Dubai is open and we’re ready to welcome travellers thanks to the comprehensive measures that have been put in place in the air, on the ground, and throughout Dubai. We have been working closely with partners around the world, including IATA, to help passengers easily and securely manage their travel in line with any government requirements for COVID-19 testing or vaccine information. We will continue to work with the UK to meet all of its criteria, and hope that those vaccinated in the UAE will soon be considered in the same manner as those vaccinated elsewhere.

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Shai Weiss, CEO, Virgin Atlantic, said:

The overdue simplification of the Government’s rules for international travel will deliver a significant boost to consumer confidence and UK economic recovery. However, to ensure that Britain’s global ambitions are met, the vaccination status of those travellers receiving a full dose in countries like India and Hong Kong must be recognised, ensuring they are able to take advantage of the simplified travel rules. Additionally, the Red list should focus purely on Variants of Concern, in order to protect public health, therefore it’s imperative to rapidly and continuously remove countries that don’t pose a threat, in order to open travel back up to countries like South Africa. We urge the UK Government to use the Prime Minister’s upcoming visit to the USA to work with the Biden administration to remove transatlantic restrictions for UK citizens, just as the UK has done for US travellers, helping loved ones to reunite safely and businesses to restore ties with our largest trading partner. The US already allows entry for travellers from Dubai, Turkey and much of South America for example. With the high rate of vaccination in the UK – 81% of UK adults have received both jabs – there is no reason to deny UK citizens from entering the US safely, and no reason to delay.

Stewart Wingate, CEO, Gatwick Airport, said:

This is a significant and welcome step towards recovery. Fully vaccinated passengers now have a larger choice of destinations and can book with more confidence in the months before Christmas and beyond – free from the need to arrange pre-departure tests before coming back into the UK. We know there is significant pent-up demand for travel and our staff, restaurants, cafes and bars are ready to welcome back passengers over the coming months. 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 US – where passenger numbers are already approaching pre-pandemic levels. However, we also hope that the remaining constraints including the passenger locator form can be removed soon and we continue to call for the slot rules to be reinstated to incentivise airlines, increase competition and provide passengers with greater choice and flexibility. Gatwick is doing everything it can to make travel as easy as possible and only yesterday announced that it is further subsidising cut-price lateral flow tests for holiday-makers.

Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association, said:

We are delighted that the Government has finally simplified the restrictions around international travel. It is imperative that there is no more yo-yoing nor re-introduction of unnecessary regulations. Safe travel is essential for our economy and position as a truly global Britain. We ask the Government to now lead the way in establishing international protocols that safeguard the future of the travel industry. It is only once all countries have the confidence to open their borders that our industry can truly recover.

Andrew Crawley, American Express Global Business Travel’s Chief Commercial Officer, said:

We are pleased the Government is introducing a more streamlined system to minimise confusion and give travellers more confidence. However, 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. The UK economy is losing more than £4 billion a week due to restrictions hindering recovery. Previous travel system changes have been brought in within days. Why do we have to wait weeks? The Government must do better.

Dale Keller, Chief Executive of BAR UK, said:

Moving from the established three traffic light system to a Red list, and a two-tier entry regime for vaccinated or non-vaccinated passengers, brings greater clarity to entry requirements and recognises the vaccination status of an additional 17 countries. This is to be applauded, however the revised system can only work effectively – and without discrimination, when fully vaccinated status is recognised for all travellers to the UK. Testing requirements for many remains costly and excessive, and a significant number of inbound markets for the UK will still remain unfairly treated. The UK’s complex and costly travel restrictions decimated passenger volumes over the summer while much of Europe capitalised on vaccination roll-out by rebuilding their connectivity. Today’s announcement is a step towards properly rebalancing international travel risk with the Government’s domestic Covid response, and will enable the UK to begin to claw back lost ground as airlines attempt to rebuild their operations. Over the coming weeks airlines will continue their engagement with the UK Government on rapidly expanding international vaccination recognition so to develop strategies with the ambition of normalising travel as soon as feasible.

More information on UK government’s traffic light system can be found here.

What do you think of the latest changes in the traffic light system made by the government of United Kingdom? Are you happy that UK has finally removed pre-departure testing for those who are fully vaccinated? Let me know in the comments section below.

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