LONDON: England set out measures to boost international travel on Friday, abandoning expensive COVID-19 testing requirements for fully vaccinated travelers, scrapping its traffic light system and adding eight countries to its safe list.
Travelers returning to England from Pakistan, Turkey and the Maldives will not have to quarantine on their return as they are removed from the so-called COVID red list for travel, British Transport Minister Grant Shapps said.
Shapps also said under the new proposals destinations will simply be ranked low or high risk, instead of red, amber and green. “We’re making testing easier for travel,” he said on Twitter.
Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh, Kenya, Turkey, Egypt, and the Maldives are among the eight countries that are set to be removed from England’s red list, according to the British official.
In August, the UK retained Pakistan on its red list, as the country failed to meet the requirements on genomic surveillance capability, transmission risk, and variants of concern. Providing further updates on travel restrictions, the British official said the government was making coronavirus testing easier for travel from October 4.
“If you’re fully [vaccinated] you won’t need a pre-departure test before arrival into England from a non-red country and from later in Oct, will be able to replace the day 2 PCR test with a cheaper lateral flow,” he said.
“We’ll also be introducing a new simplified system for international travel from Mon 4 Oct, replacing the current approach with a single red list and simplified measures for the rest of the world striking the right balance to manage the public health risk as No.1 priority,” he added.
Grant Shapps also said eight countries would be taken off the red list from Wednesday. It means people returning from places such as Turkey will no longer have to stay in hotel quarantine. And PCR tests will no longer be required for fully vaccinated travellers returning to England.
Under the new testing regime, people who have had both jabs will not need to take a pre-departure test before leaving any country not on the red list. Mr Shapps said later in October, they would be able to replace the day two PCR test with a cheaper, rapid lateral flow test.
While travel is a devolved matter, the Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish governments have often followed the UK government’s rules during the pandemic. Wales said it would “carefully consider” the proposed changes.
The transport secretary said the new travel rules would remain in place “at least until the new year”. The purpose is to make it easier to travel without the bureaucracy, without so many tests, and with a greater level of certainty now that we’ve got so many people vaccinated,” he said.
UK High Commissioner
Responding to the development, British High Commissioner to Pakistan Christian Turner said he was aware of how difficult the last five months were for so many who relied on close links between UK and Pakistan.
Turner said; ‘Britain to continue working closely with Pakistan to ensure data sharing”.
The envoy thanked Federal Minister for Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives Asad Umar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Dr Faisal Sultan, and relevant Pakistani institutions for their close collaboration.
Turner said UK and Pakistan would continue to work closely to ensure data sharing and safeguard public health in both countries. “No one is safe until everyone is safe.”