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The UK Overhauls Its Entry & Testing Rules – Bad News For The Unvaccinated


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The British transport secretary Grant Shapps (who somehow survived this week’s cabinet reshuffle) has announced that England’s quarantine rules, the rules surrounding the COVID tests that passengers are expected to take before embarking on their trip (to England), and the tests passengers are expected to take following their arrival in England, will be changing from next month. It’s bad news for the unvaccinated.

The Traffic Light System Ending, Testing Requirements Will Change & Quarantine Is Back

From 4 October 2021, England will operate just two lists as part of its international traffic light system – a red list and a list with every other country and territory in the world (which hasn’t been assigned a color).

Here are the new rules applicable to vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers:

All Travel from Red List Countries

British & Irish nationals as well as anyone else who has residence rights in the UK arriving from counties on England’s red list will continue to have to quarantine at government-assigned properties regardless of their vaccination status. No one else is allowed to enter England from a red list country.

Before traveling to England, eligible passengers traveling from red list counties must:

  1. Take a pre-departure COVID-19 test – to be taken in the 3 days before you travel to England
  2. Book a quarantine hotel package, including 2 COVID-19 tests
  3. Complete a passenger locator form – any time in the 48 hours before you arrive in England
  4. Quarantine in a managed hotel upon arrival in England and take two further COVID-19 tests.

Non-Vaccinated Travelers Arriving From The Rest of The World (i.e. non-Red List)

From 04:00 on Monday 4 October 2021, all travelers arriving from non-red list counties who do not qualify for entry under the fully vaccinated rules (see below), who are partially vaccinated or who are not vaccinated at all, must follow these procedures:

Pre-Departure:

  • Take a pre-departure COVID-19 test – to be taken in the 3 days before traveling to England
  • Book and pay for day 2 and day 8 COVID-19 tests – to be taken after arrival in England
  • Complete a passenger locator form – any time in the 48 hours before arriving in England

After Arriving in England:

  • Quarantine at home or in the place they are staying for 10 days
  • Take a COVID-19 test on or before day 2 and on or after day 8

Non-vaccinated travelers may take advantage of England’s test to release scheme on day 5 but will still have to take their day 8 test as planned.

Fully Vaccinated Travelers Arriving From The Rest of The World (i.e. non-Red List)

Note: This section also applies to children under the age of 18 (regardless of vaccination status) who are returning from a country that’s not on the red list.

All travelers who have been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days under an approved vaccination program in the UK, Europe, US, or UK vaccine program overseas
with a full course of an approved vaccine from a relevant public health body in…

  • Australia,
  • Antigua & Barbuda,
  • Barbados,
  • Bahrain,
  • Brunei,
  • Canada,
  • Dominica,
  • Israel,
  • Japan,
  • Kuwait,
  • Malaysia,
  • New Zealand,
  • Qatar,
  • Saudi Arabia,
  • Singapore,
  • South Korea
  • Taiwan

…or under a formally approved COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial in the US, Canada, and Australia and have proof of participation (digital or paper-based) from a public health body, must:

  • Book and pay for a day 2 COVID-19 test – to be taken after arrival in England
  • Complete a passenger locator form – any time in the 48 hours before arrival in England
  • Take a COVID-19 test on or before day 2 after you arrive in England

A pre-departure “fit to fly” test will no longer be required, there will be no need for a day 8 COVID test, and there will be no need to quarantine for any length of time (assuming the day 2 COVID test comes back negative).

All travelers claiming to be fully vaccinated must be able to prove that they have been fully vaccinated (plus 14 days) with a document (digital or paper-based) from a national or state-level public health body that includes, as a minimum:

  • Forename and surname(s)
  • Date of birth
  • Vaccine brand and manufacturer
  • Date of vaccination for every dose
  • Country or territory of vaccination and/or certificate issuer

If a person’s document from their public health body does not include all of the above, they must follow the non-vaccinated rules. If not, they may be denied boarding.

A passenger claiming to be fully vaccinated in the United States will also need to prove that they are a resident of the United States.

A passenger who is fully vaccinated, but does not qualify under these fully vaccinated rules, must follow the non-vaccinated rules.

Approved vaccines:

  • Oxford/AstraZeneca
  • Pfizer BioNTech
  • Moderna
  • Janssen

Note: Mixing between two-dose vaccines (Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna) is also allowed.

Cheaper Day 2 Test On the Way (Vaccinated Travelers Only)

As things stand, the day-2 test that all travelers have to take must be of the PCR variety which is more expensive than all other types of COVID test on the market. From “later in October” (as usual, the UK government doesn’t have all its ducks in a row before making an announcement), vaccinated travelers will be permitted to take a cheaper, rapid lateral flow test in place of the PCR test on day 2.

8 Countries Are Being Removed From The Red List

As of 04:00 on Monday 4 October 2021, the following eight countries are being removed from England’s red list:

  • Bangladesh
  • Egypt
  • Kenya
  • The Maldives
  • Oman
  • Pakistan
  • Sri Lanka
  • Turkey

The new rules announced today will be in place “at least until the new year” but further changes to the red list are possible (and likely) in the coming weeks and months.

Bottom Line

England is making significant changes to its entry and testing requirements from Monday 4 October. As of that date, unvaccinated travelers arriving in England will have to quarantine for a minimum of 5 days regardless of where in the world they’re arriving from while fully vaccinated travelers will continue not to have to quarantine and will also no longer have to take a “fit to fly” test before embarking on their trip to England. From later in October, vaccinated travelers will be able to take a rapid lateral flow test in place of a PCR test to meet the government’s day 2 testing requirement.

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6 COMMENTS

  1. how does this impact passengers who are transiting? i’m flying lax to lhr (2 hour stopover) and then on to austria. does any of this apply to transiting passengers?

  2. Similar question: Wife & I (both US citizens & residents, both traveling on US passports) will be transiting (2hrs + 5 minutes) LHR on Oct 4, 2021. Flying ZRH-LHR-DFW. Do we need to do ANYTHING other than COVID testing for US?

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