The Travel Column with Katie Butler, Total Travel

Finally we have fantastic news for the travel industry and, as speculated, a complete overhaul of the traffic light system. You can imagine how excited we were to receive this news.

By Katie Butler
Sunday, 26th September 2021, 2:30 pm
UPDATE: Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announces changes. Photo: Getty Images
UPDATE: Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announces changes. Photo: Getty Images

The Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, announced last Friday a simplified system for international travel in light of the success of the UK’s domestic vaccine rollout, providing greater stability for industry and passengers.

So what has changed?

The current traffic light system will be replaced by a single red list of countries and territories which will continue to be crucial in order to protect public health, and simplified travel measures for arrivals from the rest of the world from Monday, October 4 at 4am. The amber category will be scrapped and those countries not on the red list will be classed as green and clear to travel. Eight countries were also removed from the red list - Turkey, The Maldives, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya. These changes came into effect at 4am on September 22.

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What about testing requirements and will I still need to complete passenger locater forms?

Every destination will still have their own requirements for entry. Remember, the changes announced by the Transport Secretary are changes and requirements needed to return back to the UK, and so it is still necessary for you to provide negative tests to certain destinations. As an example, if you are double-vaccinated, you are able to travel to Spain, Greece and Cyprus with just proof of vaccine. However, Portugal, Croatia and Turkey will only allow entry with proof of a negative test. We expect the requirement to complete entry forms (or passenger locater forms) will be with us for a while.

It’s all about the vaccine! From 4am on October 4, pre-departure tests will no longer be required for fully-vaccinated travellers arriving into England from non-red list countries. This has also been confirmed that it will apply to children aged 17 and under travelling with vaccinated adults. From the end of October, the day two Covid test for fully-vaccinated arrivals will be replaced with the cheaper lateral flow test. While no date has been set for this, the Government says it is “aiming to have it in place for when people return from half-term breaks”.

I have not had the vaccine, what does this mean for me?

Passengers who are not recognised as being fully-vaccinated with authorised vaccines and certificates under England’s international travel rules, will still have to take a pre-departure test, a day two and day eight PCR test and self-isolate for 10 days on return from a non-red list country. Test to release will remain an option for unvaccinated passengers who wish to shorten their isolation period.

Of course the recent update is brilliant news for those wanting to get away for some last minute summer sunshine or indeed a winter holiday. We have certainly had a huge surge in enquiries for last minute bookings. It is by no means where we need to be but absolutely makes travelling easier and much better priced, once the test requirements are changed. We expect the next review of this to be in the New Year, with red list changes remaining every three weeks.

■ If you have a specific travel question you would like Katie to answer in her column, please email: [email protected]