What You Need To Know When Travelling To The UK During Covid-19
The Covid-19 outbreak wreaked havoc in the United Kingdom, causing one of the highest death tolls throughout the globe. This inevitably resulted in strict lockdowns throughout the country. However, as society reels back and the world has begun to open itself, major traveling restrictions have been lifted in England, Wales, and Scotland. But there are still stringent measures and restrictions in place for a myriad of countries when it comes to international travel.
Rules of Travelling – The
Green, Amber, and Red Lists
International travel to and from the UK is now categorized under a risk-based “traffic lights” system – “green”, “amber”, and “red”. This also includes travel to and from England, Scotland, and Wales. Here’s some important information you need to know about these categories.
The Green List
If you’re traveling to or from a country that’s on the green list, you’re not required to self-isolate. However, when returning from a green listed country, you must:
- Take the PCR test from a reliable source. You must have authentic proof of a negative result
- Take the PCR test 24 to 48 hours before departure to the UK (children four or under are not required to take the Covid test)
- Complete a passenger locator form
In case your day two PCR test is positive after your arrival, or if you develop coronavirus symptoms, or if the NHS Test and Trace find out that you traveled with someone who tested positive, you’ll have to self-isolate. You can also request a PCR test from your airlines. For example, Ryanair now offers PCR tests for passengers traveling to the UK.
The Amber List
A plethora of countries is now on the amber list. Here’s what you need to know:
- Adult passengers that have been fully vaccinated in the US or UK – as well as different European countries, are not required to self-isolate when coming to the UK
- Passengers returning to the UK from an amber country are required to take a PCR test 2 days before their departure and a Covid-19 test 3 days before arrival
- Passengers flying from Spain have to take 2 Covid-19 tests, one of them being the PCR test.
The Red List
Countries that are at a higher risk of Covid-19 are categorized in the red list by the UK government and it’s strongly advised not to visit those countries if you don’t have to. There are a lot of countries listed, some of which include Turkey, South Africa, and Brazil. If you’ve been to a red-listed country in the last 10 days, you’ll only be allowed back into the UK if you’re a UK national or resident or an Irish national. Regardless of whether you’re fully vaccinated or not, you must:
- Take a Covid-19 or PCR test 1 day before departure and must have authentic proof of a negative result
- Complete the passenger locator form
- Self-isolate in a government-approved hotel for 10 days. You will need to book and pay for the hotel in advance.
What Type of Covid-19 Tests Do You Need?
If you’re planning to go abroad for your holidays, irrespective of whether it’s to green, amber, or red-listed country, you’re going to have to take Covid tests.
Depending on where you’re traveling, you may be required to take a test before departing – it’s important to see the Covid rules and regulations of the country as every country has its own Covid safety policies.
Before returning to the UK, it’s mandatory to get a Covid test 3 days before departing, you can either take an antigen/ lateral flow test or the standard PCR test.
But keep in mind that the facility you take the test from must be authentic as you’ll be required to show proof of a negative result. If you fail to show certifiable proof of a negative result, you will not be allowed to board – and you will not be allowed to take a free NHS test.
Moreover, the UK government now strongly recommends taking a PCR test if you’re coming back from Spain instead of the antigen/lateral flow test. If you’re coming back from a country categorized in the green or amber list, you’re required to take a PCR test 1 to 3 days before boarding.
How are Countries Categorized in the Traffic Lights System for Travel?
The decision to list different countries in the traffic lights system is made by the UK ministry, which is primarily based on the insights provided by the JBC (Joint Biosecurity Centre). The JBC strictly monitors and assesses different variants of the Covid-19 pandemic across the globe. But as a rule of thumb, till there is sufficient evidence of whether a particular country is relatively safe to travel to, all countries go into the amber list by default.
However, the green, amber, and red lists are consistently reviewed and updated every 3 weeks – this process is quite similar to that of Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and England.
Can I Travel to another Country as a Tourist?
If you’re planning a trip abroad, it’s vital to do your research as traveling isn’t the same or simple as it was before. It’s vital to keep in mind that every country has its own set of Covid regulations and policies that all visitors must strictly adhere to.
In addition, you have to stay up to date because depending on the severity of the coronavirus, these policies and regulations can quickly change on very short notice.
However, most countries require tourists to either be fully vaccinated or self-isolate for up to 2 weeks upon arrival.
You can check the details of Covid-19 policies for different countries provided by the FCDO (UK Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office).