By John Flett
UK Aviation Industry Welcomes Revision of International Travel Restrictions
The U.K. government will abolish its much-maligned “traffic light system” for international travel to England starting in early October. In an announcement released on Friday, the government said it will replace the current system that has been in effect since May 17 with “a single red list of countries and territories and simplified travel measures for arrivals from the rest of the world.” In recognition of the vaccination rollout around the world, travellers who meet the U.K. definition of “fully vaccinated” will not be required to undertake expensive PCR tests upon arrival and in some cases departure to destinations.
“Today’s changes mean a simpler, more straightforward system,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in a statement. “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.”
The current system had been roundly criticized by the industry and public alike for its confusing array of testing and quarantine requirements. A three-times-weekly review saw countries moving up and down on the three-tier scale with additional levels such as “amber plus” and “green watch” being added that further confused the public, leading to reduced passenger confidence in international travel. Some countries were arbitrarily moved into more restrictive categories leading to chaotic scenes as passengers sought to arrive in England before quarantine measures were imposed.
“Today we have simplified the travel rules to make them easier to understand and follow, opening up tourism and reducing the costs to go abroad,” Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said in a statement. “As global vaccination efforts continue to accelerate and more people gain protection from this dreadful disease, it is right that our rules and regulations keep pace.”
Industry executives welcomed the moves, which will come into effect on Oct. 4 at 4 a.m., though some commented that this review was needed several weeks prior.
Tim Alderslade, CEO of Airlines U.K., said in a statement that the move “will provide a real shot in the arm for a sector that until now has not been allowed to trade properly. That said, the insistence on keeping Day 2 testing still leaves us as an outlier across Europe, given most EU countries long ago removed this as a requirement for vaccinated passengers, and it is unclear why the UK has chosen to remain a special case. Until all restrictions are removed for the fully vaccinated the recovery can never be complete.”
Dale Keller, chief executive of BAR UK, said that the change “is to be applauded, however the revised system can only work effectively – and without discrimination, when fully vaccinated status is recognised for all travellers to the UK. Testing requirements for many remains costly and excessive, and a significant number of inbound markets for the UK will still remain unfairly treated.” This is in reference to the announcement that only passengers from specific countries will have their vaccination status recognized. Travellers from South American and African nations will not see their vaccination status recognized in the same way as passengers from other countries even if the same vaccines were administered.
Further good news for the aviation industry is that passengers transiting “red list” countries on their way to England will no longer have to quarantine if their origin country fulfils the U.K. vaccination criteria. It should be stressed that those who plan to travel to the devolved nations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are not currently included in Friday’s announcement as the governments of those nations determine travel rules.