The traffic light system for international travel is to be scrapped in a significant easing of Covid restrictions, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced.
From October 4, there will be a single, reduced “red list” of destinations from where passengers arriving in England will be required to quarantine in a Government-supervised hotel.
At the same time, people who are fully vaccinated will no longer need a pre-departure test before returning from non-red list destinations.
And from the end of October, they will be able to replace the day two PCR test with a cheaper lateral flow test.
In contrast, unvaccinated passengers from non-red list countries will have to take a pre-departure test, and a PCR test on days two and eight after returning.
However, travellers who have a valid vaccination certificate from 17 additional countries and territories – including Japan and Singapore – will be treated as if they had been jabbed in the UK.
In the meantime, eight countries – including Turkey, Pakistan and the Maldives – are being removed from the red list with effect form 4am on Wednesday.
Travellers from Egypt, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya will also no longer be required to hotel quarantine from that date.
The changes – following intense pressure from the travel industry after another summer severely hit by the Covid rules – are designed to kick in time for the October half-term break.
However airlines urged ministers to go further, putting the UK on an equal footing with the rest of Europe.
The Welsh Government said it would “carefully consider” the changes, while the Scottish Government said it would drop the traffic light system but retain the requirement for pre-departure tests due to “significant concerns” about public health.
Both administrations however said they would mirror the changes to the red list destinations.
Mr Shapps said the measures were intended to strike the “right balance“, simplifying the system while managing the public health risk “as No.1 priority”.
“Today’s changes mean a simpler, more straightforward system – 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,” he said.
“Public health has always been at the heart of our international travel policy and with more than eight in 10 adults fully vaccinated in the UK, we are now able to introduce a proportionate updated structure that reflects the new landscape.”
Airport Operators Association chief executive Karen Dee said the easing of restrictions should encourage more people to travel over the winter, but urged ministers to go further.
“This last formal checkpoint of the Global Travel Taskforce should have been the time to return to restriction-free travel at a time when nearly all of the population has been vaccinated,” she said.
“Instead, we continue to have a more onerous approach to travel than our European competitors.
“Ultimately, we need to return to a situation similar to prior to the pandemic, in which people can travel without further tests or forms to fill out. The UK and devolved governments should aim for this as soon as is safely possible.”
EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said it was a “welcome step forward” which would make travel to Europe significantly easier although there was more that needed to be done.
“Removing the pre-departure test coupled with the disbanding of the traffic light system will inject some much needed confidence into travel once again,” he said.
“However, vaccinated travellers and those from low-risk countries will still have to do an unnecessary test after arriving in the UK, making travel less affordable for all.
“Since July 1 there has been no testing at all for vaccinated travellers within the rest of Europe, and this is why the UK will continue to fall further behind the rest of Europe if this remains.”