How do UK’s traffic light travel rules work?

UK has given green light for vaccinated residents to travel to amber list countries without isolating on return

Passengers arriving at Heathrow Airport will be checked for their vaccination status. Reuters
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The UK government has updated its rules on international travel.

The changes mean travellers who have received both injections no longer need to isolate at home for 10 days after returning to England from an amber list country.

Here’s how the updated traffic light system, effective July 19, will work:

What are the rules for fully vaccinated travellers?

Passengers arriving in England who have received both vaccine doses in the UK will no longer need to isolate at home for 10 days after visiting an amber list country.

Under-18s travelling with fully vaccinated adults are also exempt from isolation.

However, travellers must still take a PCR test two days after they return to the UK.

For now, the measures apply only to residents returning to England who have received both shots in either England, Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland.

However, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Friday the government was considering scrap mandatory self-isolation for some overseas-based travellers inoculated with World Health Organisation-recognised vaccines.

Do the changes apply to everyone in the UK?

The UK government's traffic light system applies to England, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland able to make their own rules.

However, the rules are broadly the same and previous changes to the lists have been adopted by all four nations.

Do fully vaccinated red list passengers still have to quarantine in a hotel?

Yes, passengers from red list countries are still required to enter hotel quarantine on arrival in the UK.

Dozens of countries are on the red list, including the UAE, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Brazil and South Africa. If you have been in one of the red list countries in the last 10 days, you can only enter the UK if you are a UK or Irish national, or UK resident.


What is the traffic light system?

It determines the level of coronavirus risk in overseas countries, which are rated red, amber or green, with green representing the fewest restrictions for travellers and red the most.

The status is established by a variety of factors, such as the coronavirus case rate, quality of testing, number of vaccines administered and prevalence of virus mutations.

Am I allowed to travel to an amber list country?

In a key change to the traffic light system, the government will no longer be advising people against travelling to an amber list country from July 19.

The government said people should continue to check travel advice before booking a ticket.

International travel: what do the rules mean if you are travelling to England?

Passengers who have been in a red list country in the 10 days before departure are required to enter hotel quarantine. Only British and Irish nationals, and those with resident rights, are allowed to travel to England from these countries.

Travellers from both amber and green countries must show a negative Covid-19 test before departure - but only unvaccinated amber passengers are required to isolate at home for 10 days

Under-18s travelling with fully vaccinated adults also won't have to isolate.

Fully vaccinated travellers coming from amber countries need to take a test two days after arriving in the UK.

What happens if I travel to a ‘green’ country?

Before you travel back to England you must complete a passenger locator form, have proof of a negative Covid test, and book and pay for a test on day two of your return.

What happens if I travel to an ‘amber’ country?

Unvaccinated holidaymakers in medium-risk, amber countries will need to take a pre-departure test, then self-isolate for 10 days upon return. In line with current guidance, on days two and eight of this period they will need to take a PCR test.

If they take a private Covid test on day five, they may be able to leave isolation if the result is negative.

What if I have received one dose of vaccine?

Only passengers who have received two doses are exempt from isolation. Travellers need to wait two weeks after their second dose to be eligible.

However, a PCR test is still required two days after landing.

What happens if I travel to a ‘red’ country?

Holidaymakers going to red countries will be forced to enter the UK’s hotel quarantine system upon return for 11 days and pay £1,730 ($2,392) for the privilege.

It is only possible to be exempted from hotel quarantine in an emergency.

What is the green watchlist?

The green watchlist will identify countries most at risk of moving from green to amber status, and the government said it will not hesitate to change a country's status should data show increasing risk.

The watchlist serves as a warning to travellers that quarantine requirements could change.

However, Mr Shapps said travellers would be given at least two weeks' notice of any change.

Updated: July 14, 2021, 11:56 AM