UK ‘COVID-19 traffic light system’ scrapped: Need to know all about

Published on : Saturday, September 18, 2021


After months of consistent lockdowns and COVID-19 related travel restrictions, the United Kingdom has decided to gradually reopen for international tourism. The country is slowly working towards welcoming international travellers from all across the globe.

However, the UK is also making sure for a safe and controlled reopening of the nation as coronavirus cases continue to remain active. Therefore, authorities decided to introduce the traffic light system to determine countries with maximum and minimum risk of COVID-19 and establish different set of entry regulations for each country based on their risk factor.

What is the traffic light system for travel?

The UK government introduced the traffic light system for travel in May ahead of the country’s tourism reopening plan. The system includes a list of red, amber and green list of countries.

While the red list includes countries with high risk of COVID-19 infection, the amber list includes countries with moderate level of risk. The green list includes countries with low risk of infections.

Every destination is designated to a particular list based on a few factors including several COVID -19 health metrics like percentage of the country’s total vaccination rollout, rate of variants, prevalence of variants of concern and the country’s accessibility to reliable scientific date and genomic sequencing.

Red List Countries

The red list contains nearly 60 countries from across the globe including Brazil, South Africa, India, the UAE, the Philippines, Indonesia, Argentina and the Maldives. All individuals in the UK have been asked to refrain from any form of travel to the red list countries. Travellers are allowed to enter the UK from any red list country or territory only if they are a British or Irish National, or they have residence rights in the UK.

All travellers have been asked to undertake a pre-departure test before travelling to England except children aged 10 or below. Passengers from red list countries need to undergo mandatory 10 days of quarantine in a hotel at their own cost.

They also need to pay for the quarantine package before leaving for the UK. The package includes COVID-19 tests on arrival, which is to be done on the second and eighth day after arriving in the UK. Travellers even need to fill a passenger locator form before starting their journey.

Amber List Countries

The amber list consists of more than 100 countries around the world with several countries within Europe. It includes countries like Spain, France, Greece, Canada, China, Denmark, Italy, Japan, Jamaica, Malaysia, Mexico, Korea, Poland, Portugal, Switzerland, Thailand and the USA, among many others. As per the update on July 19, 2021, UK residents and fully-vaccinated travellers from the amber list countries need not go for self-isolation.

The rule also applies for under 18 travellers from the amber list countries. Meanwhile, all travellers who are not double vaccinated require a pre-departure COVID test, mandatory 10 days hotel quarantine and two COVID-19 tests upon arrival on 2nd and 8th days. According to the latest update, it is now mandatory for travellers from France to follow the above rules even if they are fully vaccinated.

In addition, all travellers are required to fill the passenger locator form declaring that they have been fully vaccinated or are taking part or have taken part in a formally approved UK COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial for COVID-19 vaccine, or are under 18 and reside in the UK. Travellers also need to show proof of vaccination status to their carrier while travelling. People can also use the NHS COVID Pass to show their vaccination status.

Green List Countries

A group of countries with low active COVID-19 cases and death rates, high vaccination rates and low numbers of ‘variants of concern’ has been placed under the green list. The green list countries include Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malta, Iceland, Israel, Croatia, Japan and Hong Kong, among a few others.

Travellers arriving at the UK from the green list countries do not need to undergo quarantine or self isolation unless they test positive for coronavirus. However, they are required to undertake one pre-departure test up to 72 hours before arriving in the UK. Travellers are also required to take one PCR test on or before the second day of arrival in the UK.

However, travellers don’t need to take a COVID-19 test or quarantine on arrival in England if they are travelling within the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, and have not been outside of the Common Travel Area in the previous 10 days.

Green Watchlist and Amber Plus Countries

Countries that are recently placed under the green watchlist are those where the government may change the destination’s colour to amber or red any time, rather than following the set traffic light review which takes place every three weeks. There is an increased risk in booking a trip or vacation to these countries.

On the other hand, a newly created amber plus list includes some countries which would require travellers to quarantine for up to 10 days, regardless of their vaccination status. They will also have to take a PCR test on or before two days of their arrival, and another on 8th day. Fully-jabbed travellers should take an additional test on 5th day and can leave quarantine early with a negative result but they will still require to take the 8th day test.

On Friday, September 17, 2021 it was announced that the UK government has decided scrap the amber list countries from October 4, 2021. All high-risk countries will now come under one “red list” facilitating a further simplification of the UK Traffic Light System.

Meanwhile, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has also announced that eight countries will be taken off from the red list, starting Wednesday. Moreover, vaccinated travellers will no longer undergo the expensive PCR tests that will soon be replaced by a cheap and rapid lateral flow test.

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