The travel and tourism industries have welcomed the UK government’s new updated COVID testing requirements for returning holidaymakers as a “shot in the arm”. From 4 October, people who have had both jabs will be exempt from the current requirement to take an expensive pre-departure test if they are leaving countries that are not on the “red list”.
The new rules also include a simplification of the “traffic light system”, which will remove both the “amber” category, which includes Alicante and the rest of Spain, and “green” classification, just leaving a red list in the system.
In addition, according to transport secretary Grant Shapps, later in October returning travellers will be able to replace the day-two PCR test with a cheaper rapid lateral flow test.
Shapps said the new travel rules would remain in place “at least until the new year… The purpose is to make it easier to travel without the bureaucracy, without so many tests, and with a greater level of certainty now that we’ve got so many people vaccinated.
“Public health has always been at the heart of our international travel policy and, with more than eight in 10 adults fully vaccinated in the UK, we are now able to introduce a proportionate updated structure that reflects the new landscape.”
Currently, as the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments have been granted devolved control over travel matters, the announcement only applies for those returning to England. Both Scotland and Wales have indicated they will simplify their own traffic light systems, but will maintain the testing requirements – at least for now.
In the meantime, Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, said of the UK government’s new stance, “This is a positive step which moves us much closer to the reopening of UK aviation and provides greater reassurance to passengers desperate to travel.
“By reducing the number of red list destinations and scrapping PCR testing, ministers have paved the way for people to get away this October half-term and into the winter following 18 months of uncertainty. It will provide a real shot in the arm for a sector that until now has not been allowed to trade properly.”
Also welcoming the changes, World Travel and Tourism Council president and chief executive Julia Simpson said, “We are pleased to see the back of an illogical traffic light system that caused confusion and distress for travellers. While this is certainly a step in the right direction, for the UK to be real leaders, the government should adopt a system based on the risk of individuals, not countries.”