Covid-19 travel explained: Everything we know about red list flights and returning to UK from UAE
From June 8, the UK government will allow direct flights from red list countries for British and Irish nationals, or those with residence rights in the UK
The UAE remains on the UK’s coronavirus red list, after travel rules into the country were updated last week.
Red list travellers to the UK are required to complete a mandatory 11-night quarantine at a government-approved hotel, and must have two negative Covid-19 tests before being allowed to leave – regardless of whether they have been vaccinated against the disease or not.
The UK government had banned direct flights from red list countries, but from June 8, the country will allow flights from these nations to land at two airports.
However, this is only for British and Irish nationals, or those with residence rights in the UK.
Here is everything we know about the new flight rules, along with other ways to return to the UK to avoid hotel quarantine.
What was the old rule?
Anyone travelling from a red list destination, or anyone who had spent time in one in the previous 10 days, was not permitted to fly to the UK directly, and had to use an indirect route through a third country.
The move was made to lessen the risk of importing new strains of the virus.
Once they got to the UK, travellers had to complete a mandatory hotel quarantine for 11 nights.
What has changed?
All passengers who have been in or travelled through a red list country in the previous 10 days must still undergo the mandatory quarantine. This costs £1,750 ($2,468) per adult traveller and £325 ($460) for a child, aged from 5 to 11.
But from June 8, they can fly directly from red list countries to a dedicated terminal at London's Heathrow Airport and a dedicated check-in zone at Birmingham Airport.
The UK government said the move covered all red list countries and that the authorities will help to separate passengers and ensure they were processed "safely and efficiently".
Will there be direct flights from the UAE to the UK?
In theory, there should be. UAE authorities have not yet commented on the change to the UK rules.
Etihad has, however, confirmed it will resume direct flights to the UK.
“Effective from 8 June, Etihad will resume passenger flights into London Heathrow, UK," a spokeswoman for the airline told The National.
"Only British and Irish nationals, and passengers with residence rights for the UK will be permitted to travel into the UK from a red-list country.
"All passengers will be required to stay in a managed quarantine hotel, take a Covid-19 PCR test on or before day 2 and on or after day 8 of quarantining, and follow the national restrictions."
Passengers are required to book a hotel quarantine stay before their arrival into Heathrow.
"Flights departing the UK remain unaffected and continue to operate as scheduled from Terminal 2," the spokeswoman said.
"Passengers arriving in Abu Dhabi can enjoy quarantine-free travel as the UK is on Abu Dhabi’s green list."
Are there any options to avoid hotel quarantine in the UK?
There are several, some of which offer the option of avoiding quarantine all together on arrival in the UK – provided you are travelling via a green list country or territory.
These are: Australia, Brunei, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Iceland, Israel, New Zealand, Singapore, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, and St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.
However, most are not open to visitors.
Iceland is – as long as travellers can prove they have been vaccinated or had the virus. Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Sinopharm vaccines are all accepted.
Passengers do not need to have a PCR test to board a flight to Iceland, but they are required to undergo one Covid-19 test when they arrive.
The test is free, and you must wait for the result at your accommodation. The result is usually received within five to six hours, but may take up to 24 hours. You do not need to quarantine or take a second test.
After 10 days in Iceland, travellers can fly to England without the need to quarantine there.
Gibraltar may be another option. Although the UAE remains on the red list there, vaccinated visitors are no longer required to isolate on arrival.
A person is deemed to be fully vaccinated after receiving two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Astrazeneca shots and two weeks after the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Sinopharm is not recognised.
And the traveller person would have to fly to Malaga in Spain and cross the border by land to enter Gibraltar.
All passengers from the UAE must have a PCR test on the day of arrival, and a second one on day five for vaccinated people, and day 10 for the unvaccinated. Travellers who have not been vaccinated must isolate for 10 days.
Fly via UAE's travel corridors with amber countries
The alternative is to fly to a country on the UK's amber list with which the UAE has a travel corridor arrangement, so passengers do not have to quarantine on arrival there.
After spending 10 days in the amber country they could go on to the UK and self-isolate in the place they are staying for 10 days.
However, they can choose to end quarantine early by paying for a private Covid-19 test on day five, through the test to release initiative.
Covid-19 tests in the UK are expensive, costing between £60 ($85) and £260.
Options for this route include Italy, Greece or Serbia.
To travel to Italy from the UAE quarantine-free, a person must be fully vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19, and have obtained a negative PCR result no more than 48 hours before travel.
Passengers holding vaccination certificates can travel between the UAE and Greece without taking a PCR test or having to quarantine on arrival.
The same arrangement is in place between the UAE and Serbia.
Anyone who has not been vaccinated can still travel to Greece and Serbia, but must take a PCR test before departure.
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Updated: June 6, 2021 04:06 PM