As of this Monday, travelling to the UK has become much easier and cheaper as the number of vaccinated residents rises and travel rules relax. The news might come as a surprise for some since the old Red, Amber, and Green lists were already presented as a simpler solution to international travelling earlier in the year. However, the new rules see Amber list countries scrapped. Which makes the UK much more open to the fully vaccinated.
This article will summarise how the old travel rules worked in the UK. Also what the current rules are. We will discuss why this relaxation might be the saving grace for many countries, while also going over the criticism received by the general public.
How the Amber list countries concept used to work
Earlier this year, the government announced the ‘new’ travel rules which categorised all countries in the world within three categories. Red, Amber, and Green countries. The red list, as the name would suggest, comprises nations that are having difficulties controlling the Covid-19 pandemic and are therefore a high risk for travellers.
Because of that, the UK discouraged people from travelling to countries on that list. They also tightened the security requirements around those coming back from places such as Brazil and Mexico. The green list, on the other hand, were countries where fully vaccinated people could go without having to endure the ten day quarantine in a hotel approved by the government.
Lastly, the Amber list included most countries in the world, where the fully-vaccinated could travel and expect a reasonable level of security. However they would have to meet these requirements…
1. Pre-travel PCR test.
2. Ten days of quarantine in a government-approved hotel.
3. A second PCR test two days after arrival.
All of those restrictions could amount to $2,700 on top of the already high cost of travelling internationally.
Current UK travel rules
As it stands, the UK has now scrapped the Amber list countries. All of the countries are now on the Red or Green list, which does seem to simplify things for international travel. Now, people who’ve had two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Moderna, Astrazeneca, or one dose of the Janssen shot can travel to countries out of the red list without quarantine. And also the pre-travel PCR test.
Actually, the only rule that remains is the second-day test. But it seems the government is trying to substitute that test for lateral flow testing by the end of October. Which would make testing much cheaper and faster.
Unvaccinated people, however, still need to take (and pay for) two PCR tests. They will also need to quarantine upon arrival.
However, this decision has received a fair bit of criticism ever since its recent announcement. Some people say that the country isn’t ready to open for international travel and not enough yet vaccinated. Meanwhile, others have a problem with the government’s suggestion to make only unvaccinated people pay for the testing.
Possible consequences and criticism
While it’s still early to say what will be the long-term effects of relaxing travel rules early, some doctors are already expressing concern about the lift of the two PCR tests. They’re also especially vocal about the lateral flow testing.
According to doctor Eleanor Gaunt in an interview with ITV News, the lateral flow tests being put in place miss low levels of infection. In fact, they don’t allow doctors to get sequencing information, which is necessary to determine which variant infected the contaminated person.
All of these problems can lead to an increase in Covid cases. Especially towards the end of the year with the holiday season. In the UK, around 30% of people aren’t yet fully vaccinated, and about five million people declared they won’t be getting the vaccine.
This number represents a big portion of the population that the relaxation of travel rules can affect. Along with vaccinated people that a different variant of Covid brought from other countries could infect.
Why the new travel rules are so important
In the second year of the pandemic, the travelling industry is still struggling to stay afloat. Many tourist countries have lost a significant portion of their income along with other financial difficulties brought with the Covid-19 disease.
The foreign exchange from tourism is a key component to many developing countries. It is a critical source of money for financing local infrastructure and security. The money lost between 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic is about four trillion dollars around the world according to UN World Tourism Organisation. This has resulted in the loss of jobs and lack of relief funds for many people.
This scenario was only getting worse as 2021 came. Confusing and restrictive travel policies scared away most people who weren’t ready to pay almost $2,700 with all the testing and paid quarantine.
With simpler and less restrictive rules, we can hope to see a better outcome for tourism in areas where that activity is so necessary. Some say that the lifting of the Amber list can mean the recovery of the travelling industry this year.
How will this affect foreigners travelling to the UK?
What for foreigners wanting to spend some time in the UK? The rules can depend on their home country, so make sure to check local rules and if the vaccines you took are among the recognised by the UK. They currently include Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Janssen.
However, the UK will welcome most residents of non-Red list countries. For vaccinated tourists, you will only need one Covid test. Unvaccinated tourists will require to quarantine and take at least two tests.
The bad news is that if you’re a resident from one of the 50 countries on the red list, the UK will deny you entry. The good news is that they will update the red list, probably later this week. Some news outlets expect the new list to contain only 10 countries, possibly suffering more changes until the end of October.
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