The scrapping of the UK’s traffic light system for travel has been welcomed by Airlines UK as a “step in the right direction.”

Restrictions on international travel will be limited to just two categories – countries on the red list and everywhere else. The move has also been welcomed by the tourism sector, which, along with airlines have been among the hardest-hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. The Department for Transport has said it will implement the changes in time for the “return from half-term break.

There are currently 54 countries on the red list, which is expected to be cut to as few as nine. South Africa is expected to come off the red list this week and Mexico is also expected to be added to the list of destinations which will become available for quarantine-free travel.

There will also be changes for people arriving in the UK who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 – and under 18s. Those coming from countries not on the red list will be able to enter the UK without a pre-departure test. They do not have to take a PCR test eight days after their arrival or isolate at home. Just a single test will be needed on the second day after arrival in the UK. It is unclear when testing requirements will change to a cheaper lateral flow test rather than a PCR version for vaccinated arrivals.

UK is “outlier” on arrivals testing

Welcoming the move, Tim Alderslade, chief executive of trade body Airlines UK, told Sky News: “Things are moving in the right direction and the removal of these restrictions will make it easier and cheaper for people to travel. We’ve seen a good response to the announcement in terms of bookings and given current trends we would hope to see more countries come off the red list and further mutual recognition of vaccine status.”

He added: “There is still much to do though. This is not job done, and ministers need to keep in mind that we remain an outlier on arrivals testing for vaccinated passengers. In the short-term the removal of PCR testing by the October half-term week is critical, and we look forward to clarity on the start date for this as soon as possible.”

Travellers from red list countries will still need to pay £2,285 for 11 nights in a government-approved quarantine hotel on arrival in the UK. Those travelling from the UK may also still need to arrange tests depending on the requirements of airlines and their destination country.

Shapps: “Accelerating” towards safe reopening of travel

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “We are accelerating towards a future where travel continues to reopen safely and remains open for good, and today’s rule changes are good news for families, businesses and the travel sector. “Our priority remains to protect public health but, with more than eight in 10 people now fully vaccinated, we are able to take these steps to lower the cost of testing and help the sector to continue in its recovery.”

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