Hurtigruten takeover
Hurtigruten takeover

England scraps PCR testing, quarantine and traffic light system for arrivals

Starting Oct. 4, fully vaccinated people travelling to England from countries classified as low-risk for the pandemic including Australia and New Zealand will not have to take a COVID-19 test prior to departure, nor quarantine at all unless they return a positive test on arrival.

Starting Oct. 4, fully vaccinated people travelling to England from countries classified as low-risk for the pandemic including Australia and New Zealand will not have to take a COVID-19 test prior to departure, nor quarantine at all unless they return a positive test on arrival.

From Monday 4 October 2021, the rules for international travel to England will change from the red, amber, green traffic light system to a single red list of countries and simplified travel measures for arrivals from the rest of the world.

While both Australia and New Zealand were previously on the UK’s green list anyway, the new process below will be applicable to all ANZAC travellers.

Here’s what fully vaccinated travellers will need to do who are arriving in England from October 4.

  • 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 they arrive in England
  • take a COVID-19 test on or before day 2 after they arrive in England

Arrivals into England (except from a red list country) will not need to:

  • take a pre-departure test
  • take a day 8 COVID-19 test
  • quarantine at home or in the place they are staying for 10 days after they arrive in England

You must be able to prove that you have been fully vaccinated (plus 14 days) with a document (digital or paper-based) from a national or state-level public health body.

And while visitors from red list countries will still have to get tested after arrival in England, they will be allowed to opt for a rapid anitgen test instead of the currently mandated PCR test, which is much more expensive.

Rapid Testing

Another aspect of what UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps called a “simpler, more straightforward system” will be to abandon the classification of countries as red, green or amber in favour of a binary division between high-risk and low-risk.

However, unvaccinated people coming from low-risk countries will remain subject to requirements for a pre-departure test, two PCR tests at a six-day interval after arrival and to self-isolate for 10 days once they are in England.

The obligation to quarantine for 10 days in a government-approved hotel – at a cost of up to AU$4,313 per person – will remain in place for arrivals from high-risk nations, regardless of vaccine status.

The new guidelines apply only to England, as the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland set health policy in their respective jurisdictions.

Several European countries coded amber under the existing “traffic light” scheme, such as Spain, France and Italy, will join the low-risk category.

Eight countries currently on the red list: Turkey, Egypt, the Maldives, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya, are to be removed from the list effective next Wednesday September 22.

“Today’s changes mean a simpler, more straightforward system. One with less testing and lower costs, allowing more people to travel, see loved ones or conduct business around the world while providing a boost for the travel industry,” Shapps said in a statement.

Heathrow_Airport
Heathrow Airport

UK airlines, hotels and tour operators have been battered by the pandemic, which has seen London’s Heathrow Airport go from being Europe’s busiest in 2019 to 10th this year, with passenger volume down by 71 per cent.

Johan Lundgren, chief executive of budget airline EasyJet, said Friday’s announcement was a “welcome step forward” even as he urged the government to go further.

“Since July 1 there has been no testing at all for vaccinated travellers within the rest of Europe, and this is why the UK will continue to fall further behind the rest of Europe if this remains,” he said.

British Airways CEO Sean Doyle had a similar take.

Praising the government for “finally giving customers and business the confidence to book the journeys they’ve been waiting for,” he urged the elimination of “all testing for fully vaccinated travellers as soon as possible in the future, in line with most other European countries.”

Shapps also said that England was ready to recognize vaccinations from an additional 17 countries and territories, including Japan, Singapore, Australia, Israel, Saudi Arabia and South Korea.

Find out the full details here.