If you are looking to travel this year, make sure you are up-to-date with the latest travel rules. Since January 2021, the UK government has imposed a traffic light system that classifies countries as either red, amber, or green, depending on their current Covid-19 status. Red list countries are destinations that the government has determined to be high-risk for both new and emerging strains of Covid-19.
While the amber and green lists were changed on 4 October 2021 to a simpler ‘rest of the world’ list, and now face lighter restrictions, the red list remains the same. However, it has been shortened to just seven countries that require hotel quarantine on return to the UK.
Which countries are on the UK’s red travel list?
You can only travel to the UK from a red list country if you are either a British or Irish national, or if you have residence rights in the UK.
In October 2021, the government removed 47 countries, including South Africa, Thailand, and Mexico, from the list. The remaining seven countries on the UK’s red list for travel are:
- Dominican Republic
What you need to do if returning from a red list country
People returning to the UK from a red list country must quarantine in a pre-booked quarantine hotel in England or Scotland for ten days and 11 nights. This is to prevent the spread of new coronavirus infections and variants.
Travelers are required to cover the cost of quarantine themselves, priced at £2,285 per person for people traveling alone. This cost covers room and board for the ten days and 11 nights. For travelers sharing their room with friends or family, the second person pays £1,430 or £325 for children aged five to 12. Children under five can stay for free.
If you have been in a red list country ten days before arriving in England, regardless of whether you are fully vaccinated, you must:
- Book your quarantine hotel package before you travel to England
- Quarantine for ten full days in a managed quarantine hotel (the day you arrive is day 0)
- Take a day 2 lateral flow test from Medicspot on or before day two of your quarantine, and then on or after day eight of quarantine
If you get a positive result from your lateral flow test, then you must take a PCR test to verify the result. You must self-isolate while you are waiting for your PCR test result. If the test comes back positive, you must isolate for ten full days (the day you took the lateral flow test is day 0).
Failure to follow these quarantine rules may result in a fine of up to £10,000.
What determines whether a country should be on the red list?
Countries on the red list are considered high risk. There’s very likely been a Covid-19 variant identified and prevalent there.
In addition to the UK’s Kent variant (B.1.1.7), other variants have been found in India (B.1.617.2), Brazil (P.1), and South Africa (1.351). India’s mutation is the Delta variant, up to 60% more contagious than the Kent mutation and already widespread in the UK.
The Beta Covid-19 mutation put France on its own special ‘amber plus’ category when it was detected there. However, France was later moved to the amber list in a subsequent travel review.
What other travel rules have changed?
Since 4 October 2021, fully vaccinated travelers coming to the UK from non-red listed countries, including the US, EU, Turkey, South Africa, Pakistan, Hong Kong, India, and Brazil, are not required to take a Covid-19 test before traveling. However, they must be able to prove they are fully vaccinated. People who are not fully vaccinated and over 18 must self-isolate at home for ten days after arriving in the UK. They must also:
- Take a lateral flow or PCR test three days before traveling to the UK
- Take a test on day two and day eight after their return
Test to release is still an option for unvaccinated people traveling to England who want to quarantine for less time.
Further updates to the red list
The UK’s red travel list will continue to be under review every three weeks. The next announcement concerning UK travel is expected around 28 October 2021. In the meantime, as the travel rules can change at short notice, it’s a good idea to keep checking the rules of your destination country if you are planning to travel abroad this year.
With the scrapping of the amber and green travel lists and the red travel list whittled down to just seven countries, it looks hopeful that travel and tourism are beginning to return to something close to normal. However, while we may be able to travel to more countries now, there are still rules regarding testing and quarantining that we must follow. This will help to prevent the spread of existing and new variants, and help keep our skies open.