The travel industry has faced major challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions imposed on global travel. Many governments worldwide saw their countries enter lockdown in to slow the spread of the virus.
Now though, with vaccine rollouts underway in many countries, people are looking to the future – and the travel industry is keen to see regulations change. In the UK specifically, most, if not all, COVID-19 restrictions are soon to be lifted, but it’s crucial to know what that means for travel, and what the regulations currently are.
The Situation in the UK
From May 17th, people no longer had to ‘stay in the UK’ – a sign of changing times as the country made headway in vaccinating the population and leaving behind the worst of the pandemic. Instead, a new ‘traffic light’ system was introduced to help govern international travel between affected areas from the UK.
The traffic light system was designed to provide a view on which countries were currently safe to visit, and which were restricted based on the proportion of their population that has been vaccinated against the virus, their overall infection rates, and the prevalence of variants. It was also put into place to designate visitors who needed to spend time in quarantine upon entering England itself. Of course, the countries on the traffic light system are set to change at any point in the future, with some turning green, while others are moved to either amber or red depending on their situation.
At the time of this blog’s publication, the UK updated its regulations to say that fully vaccinated UK residents arriving from amber travel list countries no longer have to quarantine from July 19th – the proposed ‘Freedom Day’ that will see the lifting of many, if not all, COVID-19 restrictions in the country.
The Current 'Traffic Light' Regulations
The number of countries currently on the green list is low but expected to increase as the pandemic situation evolves worldwide. However, arrivals from a green country will not need to quarantine, whereas non or partially-vaccinated arrivals from an amber country will need to quarantine for 10 days, with a possibility of ending self-isolation early based on test results. Meanwhile, arrivals from red list countries must be quarantined for 10 days in a managed quarantine hotel.
There are the current countries designated as ‘green’ on the traffic light system:
- Antarctic/British Antarctic Territory
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Balearic Islands
- British Indian Ocean Territory
- British Virgin Islands
- Cayman Islands
- Falkland Islands
- Faroe Islands
- Israel and Jerusalem
- New Zealand
- Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands
- South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands
- St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
- Turks and Caicos Islands
Despite this list, the majority of these countries are actually on the ‘green watchlist’, meaning they’re at risk of moving to amber at any moment. Upon returning from a green list country, you only need to quarantine should you have a positive COVID-19 test.
When is Travel Going to Resume?
Outside of these countries, the UK government is still fairly explicit in its warnings that people should not be travelling to amber or red list countries. The amber list currently includes incredibly popular travel destinations, whether for business or leisure, such as France, Germany, Hong Kong, and Japan.
Despite that, travel has resumed to some degree already and as the situation changes across the world with countries getting their vaccine programs underway, more countries will open up. The UK government has produced a checklist to help travellers who are planning on going abroad:
- Plan before you travel
- Find out how to stay safe when you’re abroad
- Prepare to return to the UK
- Follow the rules when you arrive in the UK
Travel is resuming as the world eases out of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it will still take time. For the travel industry, however, things are slowly beginning to look more positive again.