The UK’s Covid travel rules will be simplified from October, with the traffic light system and mandatory PCR tests scrapped for many.
From 4 October, instead of green, amber and red lists of countries with differing rules on quarantine and testing for each, there will only be a single list of places which require hotel quarantine on return to England.
Every other country not on this revised red list will have much simpler border controls, with fully vaccinated travellers returning from the rest of the world no longer having to take a pre-departure test and able to take a cheaper lateral flow test on their second day back in England.
Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, announced the revised system in a series of tweets, arguing the success of Britain’s vaccination programme meant the stringent rules could be relaxed without risking importing new variants.
“Today’s changes mean a simpler, more straightforward system,” he said. “One with less testing and lower costs, allowing more people to travel, see loved ones or conduct business around the world while providing a boost for the travel industry.
“Public health has always been at the heart of our international travel policy and with more than eight in 10 adults vaccinated in the UK, we are now able to introduce a proportionate updated structure that reflects the new landscape.”
The changes will be brought in in time to apply for Britons returning from half-term breaks overseas.
From 4 October, people returning from a red list country will still have to undergo ten days mandatory government-run hotel quarantine as present, as well as pay for two PCR Covid tests during this time.
But if you are returning from another other country, on the “rest of world” list which is a merging of the old green and amber lists, and are double-jabbed, you can escape much of the current restrictions.
You will no longer have to take a Covid test in the days leading up to flying back home, and the standard test required on your second day back will be switched to a cheaper and quicker lateral flow from later in October.
The UK is also expanding the number of countries it will recognise vaccinations from, with 17 new territories added to this list including Japan and Singapore.
However, if you are not vaccinated against coronavirus and returning from a non-red listed country, stricter travel rules will remain.
The pre-departure test before flying home will still be required, as will ten days of self-isolation at home.
During this period travellers will also have to pay for PCR tests on the second and eighth day of their self-isolation, although they will still have the option of “test to release”: paying for an extra test on the fifth day which if negative will allow them to end isolation early.
In addition to these changes, eight countries will be removed from the red list on 22 September, including Turkey, Pakistan, the Maldives, Egypt, Sri Lanka and Kenya.
The widely expected relaxation of travel restrictions has come after months of lobbying by the tourism industry which has yet to bounce back to its pre-pandemic levels.
The chief executive of Airlines UK, Tim Alderslade, said it was a “positive step which moves us much closer to the reopening of UK aviation and provides greater reassurance to passengers desperate to travel”.
"It will provide a real shot in the arm for a sector that until now has not been allowed to trade properly."
The travel giant Thomas Cook added it expected this weekend to see a huge surge in bookings from customers reassured their autumn and winter plans can go ahead more cheaply and simply.