In a much-awaited travel update yesterday, the UK made several relaxations to its traffic light system. Three major destinations, India, the UAE, and Qatar, will all move from red to amber with effect from Sunday. Meanwhile, Germany, Austria, Norway, and more will make it to the green list this week. Let’s find out more.
The biggest change came undoubtedly in the relaxation of red list countries. Four countries have managed to make it to the amber list this week, ending a months-long ban. Starting 04:00 on Sunday, 8th August, passengers from India, the UAE, Qatar, and Bahrain will no longer need to complete a 10-day, £1,750 hotel quarantine.
The news of the UAE joining the amber list will be a huge relief to thousands. British expats in the country will now be able to return without a hotel quarantine, replaced by 10 days of home quarantine and two tests instead. Emirates and Etihad will be very likely to boost flights in the coming days to serve the surge of demand.
Now, passengers taking connecting flights from all over the world will also have the chance to fly with Emirates or Etihad without the hotel quarantine. The amber list decision ends a six-month ban on travel from the UAE that has left many stranded.
Qatar Airways will see a similar boost in passenger numbers as it moves to amber. Expect to see many more flights in the coming weeks, as more passengers take one-stop journeys once again. London is a top destination for Qatar, with the airline usually deploying its premium-heavy A350-1000s on this route. Qatar has been on the UK red list since mid-March, thereby ending a four-month ban on Sunday.
India has also moved down to amber as it recovers from a surge of cases in April and May. The decision comes a month before the major university travel season, which will see tens of thousands flying into the UK, usually with family. The amber list means that all visa holders can fly in now and airlines will likely ramp up their services once again. Before the ban, Air India was flying to London form a stunning 9 cities.
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However, the update was not good news for every country. Four countries are moving to the red list from amber with effect from 04:00 on Sunday, 8th August. Georgia, Mayotte, Réunion, and Mexico will all enter UK’s most restrictive destination list.
Mexico has long been a popular transit point for red list passengers since it has few border controls and does not even require a negative test for entry. However, after a surge of cases in last few weeks, the UK government has tightened restrictions quickly. Now, only UK residents and Irish citizens can enter the quarantine and must undergo a hotel quarantine for 10 days.
Meanwhile, the French overseas territories of Réunion and Mayotte will both join the red list. This is due to the highly contagious and vaccine-evading Beta variant, which first emerged in South Africa. These two islands will now follow the UK’s strict entry rules.
However, mainland France is now moving back to standard amber, with the ‘amber plus’ list effectively scrapped with France’s exit. Similarly, a surge in cases in Georgia has led to it becoming the first European country to join the red list currently.
Despite reports that dozens of countries could turn green in this travel update, the UK has somewhat pared back this optimistic view. Seven countries have entered the UK’s lowest restrictions: Germany, Austria, Norway, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Latvia.
Passengers from green list countries only need to take a pre-departure test and one PCR test after arriving in the UK (before day two). There is no quarantine required either, making travel much more seamless. However, since late July, all those fully vaccinated in the UK, US, or EU are effectively also following green list rules even if flying from amber countries.
With four weeks of summer holidays to go, airlines will be quickly adding capacity to the seven new green list countries. While the exclusion of Italy, Greece, and other European destinations might irk airlines, recent relaxations mean travel is booming, by pandemic standards.
Back on the move
The UK’s traffic light system has been less-than-perfect at many intervals, especially during the early summer. However, the last week has seen the government become more liberal with international travel, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak both speaking out about the need to open up the UK in the same way other European nations have.
Last week, Johnson said,
“We also have to recognize that people want, badly, to go on their summer holidays. We need to get the travel industry moving again, we need to get our city centers open again, and so we want an approach that is as simple as we can possibly make it.”
Today’s travel update brings the UK closer to this goal. While broader vaccine recognition would have allowed more quarantine-free travel, the removal of India, UAE, and Qatar means a major increase in passenger arrivals in the coming weeks and months. For the travel industry at large, this has been a positive update.
The UK is also seeing its case numbers come down after a dangerous spike last month. With 73% of adults fully vaccinated, the country is willing to let its guard down slightly to help save the aviation and tourism industries. For now, pack your bags if you live in the UK or are looking to travel there!
What do you think about the UK’s newest travel update? Will you travel abroad this summer? Let us know in the comments!