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The current traffic-light system for arrivals into England will be replaced by a single red list with simplified measures for the rest of the world, the U.K.’s transport secretary announced Friday. The new system will come into effect at 4 a.m. on Oct. 4.
Additionally, pre-departure Covid-19 tests will be scrapped for people arriving in England from countries not on the red list and who are doubly vaccinated. The government also has indicated that vaccinations from 17 further countries, including Canada, Israel, Japan and Singapore, would be accepted.
Grant Shapps has also indicated that second-day PCR tests will be replaced by cheaper lateral flow tests beginning at the end of October.
Testing for unvaccinated passengers from non-red countries will continue to include pre-departure tests, day-two and day-eight PCR tests.
“Today’s changes mean a simpler, more straightforward system," Shapps 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 8 in 10 adults vaccinated in the U.K., we are now able to introduce a proportionate updated structure that reflects the new landscape.”
The government also announced that Turkey, Pakistan, the Maldives, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya would be removed from the red list at 4 a.m. on Sept. 22.
The rules for international travel are devolved in the U.K., and it remains to be seen whether Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will follow suit.
Business Travel Industry Reacts
The business travel industry welcomed the planned simplification of the traffic-light system, although some criticized the delay in its implementation and others called for a wider international travel overhaul, including the opening up of U.K.-U.S. traffic. Several industry executives issued statements on the change.
Business Travel Association CEO Clive Wratten: "We are delighted that the government has finally simplified the restrictions around international travel. It is imperative that there is no more yo-yoing nor re-introduction of unnecessary regulations.
“Safe travel is essential for our economy and position as a truly global Britain. We ask the government to now lead the way in establishing international protocols that safeguard the future of the travel industry. It is only once all countries have the confidence to open their borders that our industry can truly recover."
Advantage Travel Partnership CEO Julia Lo Bue-Said: "Finally we feel that government has listened to our recommendations. Whilst they’ve not implemented everything we believe necessary to trade our way into recovery, these measures will go some way to making travel for fully vaccinated travelers less stressful and a smoother experience than they’ve had in eighteen months.
"We hope to hear more details on the nuances of the review and to continue collaboration with government and across industry as we move forward into hopefully a new and brighter dawn for all of us working in travel, consumers and businesses reliant on international travel."
Global Travel Collection UK managing director Jason Oshiokpekhai: “It is a welcome relief to hear the PCR testing circus is coming to an end and pre-departure tests are being scrapped for the fully vaccinated.
"This move reduces the number of hurdles deterring prospective travelers, cuts additional costs to already tight corporate budgets and encourages business travel to move more freely.
"The news of the two-tiered system is a positive step towards simplifying the overcomplicated structure we have endured over the year. While we welcome the news, the pitiful pace of progress has irreversibly damaged our course of recovery.
"For any meaningful resumption of trade, world leaders must unite to create one, global and sustainable travel structure. It is simply not logical to connect the world with disjointed, antiquated travel regulations. Our industry’s capacity to recover remains suppressed until this is overriding issue is resolved.”
American Express Global Business Travel chief commercial officer Andrew Crawley: “We are pleased the government is introducing a more streamlined system to minimize confusion and give travelers more confidence. However, waiting weeks to implement reforms means our economy will miss out on billions in revenue that the travel industry could be generating – especially since this is usually one of the busiest periods for business travel. The U.K. economy is losing more than £4 billion a week due to restrictions hindering recovery. Previous travel system changes have been brought in within days. Why do we have to wait weeks? The government must do better.”
Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss: “To ensure that Britain’s global ambitions are met, the vaccination status of those travelers receiving a full dose in countries like India and Hong Kong must be recognized, ensuring they are able to take advantage of the simplified travel rules. Additionally, the red list should focus purely on variants of concern, in order to protect public health, therefore it’s imperative to rapidly and continuously remove countries that don’t pose a threat, in order to open travel back up to countries like South Africa.
“We urge the U.K. government to use the Prime Minister’s upcoming visit to the USA to work with the Biden administration to remove transatlantic restrictions for U.K. citizens, just as the U.K. has done for U.S. travelers, helping loved ones to reunite safely and businesses to restore ties with our largest trading partner.
"The U.S. already allows entry for travelers from Dubai, Turkey and much of South America for example. With the high rate of vaccination in the U.K.—81 percent of U.K. adults have received both jabs—there is no reason to deny U.K. citizens from entering the U.S. safely, and no reason to delay.”
British Airways CEO and chairman Sean Doyle: "We welcome the simplification of the traffic light system, and the changes to the testing requirements allowing U.K. travelers to benefit from our world-leading vaccination program and finally giving customers and business the confidence to book the journeys they’ve been waiting for.
"Based on the scientific evidence, with fewer than 1 percent of people returning from low-risk countries testing positive for Covid (lower than the U.K.’s rate), we urge ministers to keep this policy under review, eliminating all testing for fully vaccinated travelers as soon as possible in the future, in line with most other European countries."
Emirates president Tim Clark: "It’s critical that the travel sector and governments across the world continue to work together to rebuild traveler confidence, and today’s announcements are a hugely important step towards that. Making international travel simpler and more affordable will not only benefit those desperate to reconnect with loved ones, but will be instrumental in the recovery of the economy.
“We will continue to work with the U.K. to meet all of its criteria, and hope that those vaccinated in the UAE will soon be considered in the same manner as those vaccinated elsewhere.”
Board of Airline Representatives in the U.K. chief executive Dale Keller: “Moving from the established three traffic light system to a Red list, and a two-tier entry regime for vaccinated or non-vaccinated passengers, brings greater clarity to entry requirements and recognizes the vaccination status of an additional 17 countries. This is to be applauded, however the revised system can only work effectively—and without discrimination, when fully vaccinated status is recognized for all travelers to the U.K. Testing requirements for many remains costly and excessive, and a significant number of inbound markets for the U.K. will still remain unfairly treated.
“The U.K.’s complex and costly travel restrictions decimated passenger volumes over the summer while much of Europe capitalized on vaccination roll-out by rebuilding their connectivity. Today’s announcement is a step towards properly rebalancing international travel risk with the Government’s domestic Covid response, and will enable the U.K. to begin to claw back lost ground as airlines attempt to rebuild their operations."
Heathrow Airport CEO John Holland-Kaye: “This simplification of the travel rules is very welcome for businesses and families across the country but the decision to require fully vaccinated passengers to take more costly private lateral flow tests is an unnecessary barrier to travel, which keeps the UK out of step with the rest of the EU. Ministers must continue to work towards friction-free travel for vaccinated passengers.”
Gatwick Airport CEO Stewart Wingate: “This is a significant and welcome step towards recovery...We also welcome the news that Day 2 PCR tests will be replaced with the quicker and more affordable lateral flow tests, which will allow us to start catching up with our competitors in Europe and the US - where passenger numbers are already approaching pre-pandemic levels.
“However, we also hope that the remaining constraints including the passenger locator form can be removed soon and we continue to call for the slot rules to be reinstated to incentivize airlines, increase competition and provide passengers with greater choice and flexibility."
Manchester Airports Group CEO Charlie Cornish: "For too long, the recovery of UK aviation has lagged behind the rest of Europe. The changes announced today will help to close that gap by encouraging more people to book foreign travel.
"But for as long as vaccinated travelers have to pay for tests, the recovery of one of the UK’s major industries will be held back. Government must now find a way to give people back the freedom to travel without the barrier of testing."
Association of British Travel Agents chief executive Mark Tanzer: “Today’s announcement is a good step in the right direction, but it will not in itself be enough to undo two years of damage to the overseas travel industry, caused as a direct result of government policies. Targeted financial support for travel agents and tour operators is the only way to make good this damage and stem further job losses following on from the nearly 100,000 jobs which have already been lost in the outbound travel sector.
“As these new measures apply to England, we urge the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to update their international travel policies as soon as possible.”
Transport Salaried Staffs' Association union leader Manuel Cortes: “This is a much needed set of measures to reopen our travel trade which has been so badly hit by the pandemic and all but ignored by Government.
“Ministers must be clear that the changes they plan to implement next month are safe - but also they should be backed with a bespoke financial support package for our travel industry which has been on its knees after eighteen months of near complete shutdown.
“We must get travel going again if we are to have a travel trade at the end of this pandemic. Our high street travel trade has taken an unprecedented battering with far too many jobs lost and businesses going to the wall.
“What we have heard today from Shapps should be the beginning not the end of action to support safe travel.”
Originally published by BTN Europe.
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