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UK Simplifies COVID-19 Rules for Inbound Travel

The new measures rely on vaccination status, scrapping travel traffic lights and eliminating pre-travel and Day 8 tests

The British government has taken steps to simplify international travel for fully vaccinated travelers to England. As of Oct 4, the new rules scrap the so-called traffic light system and drop the requirements for pre-travel testing for arriving passengers who have completed a full course of an approved vaccine.

In a move which had been widely anticipated last week, the government is eliminating the red, amber and green designations for countries based on COVID-19 case counts. Instead, according to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, there will be one red list with several dozen countries where coronavirus is widespread.

Fully vaccinated travelers from the rest of the world will be subject to streamlined procedures. According to the website, the new measures require travelers to:

  • Book and pay for a Day 2 COVID-19 test – to be taken after arrival in England
  • Complete a passenger locator form – any time in the 48 hours before arrival in England
  • Take a COVID-19 test on or before Day 2

Notably missing from the new procedures are both a pre-departure test and a Day 8 test, and a 10-day quarantine period after arrival in England. Additionally, the government promises that by the end of October, the less expensive lateral flow test will be recognized for testing, rather than the more sensitive – and more costly – PCR test.

Under the new rules, arriving travelers must be able to prove they have received a full course of an Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna or Janssen vaccine at least 14 days prior to arrival.

The new measures now recognize shots given in 17 more countries, including Australia, Canada, Japan and South Korea. Previously the government had recognized only vaccinations in the UK, the US and the European Union.

The proof of vaccination can be either paper-based or digital, issued by a recognized national or state-level public health body. Travelers who are fully vaccinated in the US, will also need to prove that they are residents of the US.

For individuals who are not vaccinated or are only partially vaccinated, the old rules still apply:

  • Take pre-departure COVID-19 test no more than three days before travel
  • Book and pay for Day 2 and Day 8 COVID-19 tests.
  • Quarantine for 10 days
  • Take a COVID-19 test on or before Day 2 and on or after Day 8

Details of the government’s changes for international arrivals can be found here. The new rules apply to only arrivals to England. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have yet to announce how and when their own policies may change.