Today, the government is expected to review its lists for international travel.
There are currently two lists - the red list and the ROW (“rest of world”) list - which dictate the rules travellers must follow when they enter the UK.
Rather confusingly, every country in the world is currently on the ROW list after the final seven red-list nations were officially bumped up on 1 November.
However, ministers were clear that the red list still existed in principle - and that countries could be put back on it if necessary. The Department for Transport is continuing to review the lists every three weeks, with the next announcement expected today. But when will it happen and is anything likely to change?
Here’s what we know so far.
What time will the announcement be?
The Department for Transport (DfT) tends to be cagey about exact timings of its travel announcements. But based on previous reviews, updates are usually released at around 5pm. Any changes announced then come into effect from 4am four days later (22 November).
Will any countries be put on the red list?
Although there are currently no countries on the red list in practice, it has not been abolished in theory.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said at the last review: “We will keep the red list category in place as a precautionary measure to protect public health and are prepared to add countries and territories back if needed, as the UK’s first line of defence.”
The DfT said that the red list remained a safeguard against “the importation of variants of concern”.
However, it seems unlikely that any destinations will be given red-list status, requiring arrivals to book into an expensive 10-day hotel quarantine, in this next update.
Countries across Europe are seeing a spike in case rates, but as the UK’s own infection numbers are climbing too, what seems a more important determining factor is the prevalence of variants of concern.
The Independent’s travel correspondent, Simon Calder, says: “Even though the health secretary, Sajid Javid, insists the red list is critical to protect public health, I would be very surprised if any nations are put on the hotel quarantine list.
“Based on current infection rates there are some clear potential candidates, especially Austria, Slovenia, Croatia and traditional high-scoring Barbados.
“But the red list was originally intended to isolate ‘variants of concern’ and at the moment they appear to have been rendered extinct by the all-conquering Delta variant.”
Is anything else likely to change?
One update that could be announced is the addition of more countries’ vaccines onto the UK’s approved list. At present, a person arriving in the UK is only considered as fully vaccinated (and therefore able to avoid quarantine) if they were jabbed in a country whose vaccine programme our government recognises. The list of approved nations has steadily grown over the last few DfT reviews - and even more could be added today.
What are the rules for ROW travellers?
Requirements for travellers entering the UK depend on whether they are fully vaccinated or not. Those who are double jabbed have no need to test before returning or quarantine – they must simply book and take a private Covid test (lateral flow is now acceptable) within two days of arriving.
Travellers who are not fully vaccinated must present a negative Covid test (lateral flow is acceptable) taken in the three days before departure, self-isolate for 10 days on arrival, and take two private PCR tests on days two and eight of quarantine. Those in England may opt to pay for a third test on day five to leave self-isolation early if the result is negative.
All travellers must fill in a passenger locator form before departure for the UK.
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