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UK Traffic light system could be overhauled as soon as tomorrow

An announcement about how the traffic light system for international travel will change is expected to be announced as soon as tomorrow.

Since the system was introduced in May, the government has reviewed the list or green, amber and red countries every three weeks to decide if any countries should move category.

The next review was due either yesterday or today, but so far there has not been an announcement from Mr Shapps, who usually posts any changes on his Twitter account.

He is expected to make an announcement tomorrow instead, which may include details of how things will change going forward.

On Tuesday, Sajid Javid said that Transport Secretary Grant Shapps would provide further updates ahead of the formal review point of the traffic light system on October 1.

He did not give an exact timeline, but reports today suggest it is set to come earlier than expected.

It has been reported that the green and amber lists will be merged to form one category of low-risk countries, while the number of destinations on the red list will be reduced.

People wait for their loved ones to exit through the International Arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport on August 7, 2021
People wait for their loved ones to exit through the International Arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport on August 7, 2021 (Picture: Getty)

There is also speculation that fully vaccinated arrivals will no longer need to take a pre-departure lateral flow test or a post-arrival PCR test, saving travellers around £100 per trip.

The changes will only apply to England, but recently the devolved administrations have implemented rule changes for travel announced in Westminster.

It is anticipated that under the new rules, people arriving from red list countries will continue to have to spend 11 nights in a quarantine hotel, at a cost of £2,285 for solo travellers.

There are currently 62 countries on that list, but this is expected to be reduced.

Currently, travellers who have not had both doses of a coronavirus vaccine must take one PCR test and are not required to self-isolate after arriving from a green list destination.

According to reports, they could be required to quarantine at home and be required to take two tests when arriving from a low-risk location under the new system.

The changes would come into force ahead of the October half-term break.

Many people have struggled with the restrictive red list, unable to visit family in countries such as Pakistan and Turkey, with campaigns for the system to be reformed.

Paul Charles, chief executives of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said earlier this week that 24 countries ‘should be taken off’ the red list, including Pakistan, South Africa, the Dominican Republic, Argentina and Chile.

He added that he would be ‘very surprised’ if Turkey is removed due to ‘worsening’ coronavirus data.

But coronavirus data analyst Tim White said: ‘With Grant Shapps and the travel lottery, no-one can be sure. But the data firmly support Turkey being removed as it has no threat of variants and a lot of genomic sequencing.’

The travel sector has been desperate for the testing and quarantine rules for international travel to be relaxed.

Heathrow said this week it has gone from being Europe’s busiest airport in 2019 to number 10 on the list, behind rivals in cities such as Amsterdam, Paris and Frankfurt.

The current travel rules

Green list

Before returning from a green-list destination, you must take a Covid-19 test and have proof of a negative result.

You must also book a test before you travel to be taken on the second day after your return.

Before you arrive in the UK you must also complete a passenger locator form.

Amber list

If you’re fully vaccinated you don’t have to self-isolate upon return.

You’ll need to take a Covid test before returning from an amber country, and take a PCR test two days after arriving – both of which must be booked and paid for before you travel.

Those not fully vaccinated must quarantine at home or in the place they are staying for 10 days and take three Covid tests – one before they arrive, one on the second day of quarantine and another on the eighth.

Red list

When returning from a red-list country, regardless of your vaccination status, you must self-isolate for 10 days in a government-approved quarantine hotel that you have booked and paid for in advance.

Currently, this will cost one adult £2,285, with an additional rate of £1,430 for each additional adult and £325 for each child aged between 5 and 11.

You’ll have to take a Covid-19 test before departure and have proof of a negative result.

You’ll also have to take a Covid-19 test on your second and eighth days of quarantining, tests that have to be booked and paid for in advance.

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