UK to make it easier for vaccinated Americans to visit

Sep 17, 2021

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The United Kingdom is scrapping its traffic light system, which has assigned foreign destinations to green, amber or red lists since May with different rules for each color for anyone returning to or entering the U.K. It will be replaced with a single red “do not travel” list from Oct. 4.

After Oct. 4, pre-departure testing will no longer be required for travelers from countries NOT on the red “do not travel” list who are fully vaccinated. As of now, that should include those from the U.S., as it is currently on the U.K.’s existing amber list.

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Later in October, travelers will have the option to take the day two PCR test as a cheaper lateral flow/antigen test.

UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in a statement,”Today’s changes mean a simpler, more straightforward system. 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.”

Related: Here’s what it’s like traveling to the UK as an American right now

Government advice will remain that Brits should not travel to red-list destinations. Following today’s announcement, the following countries will be removed from the existing red list as of Sept. 22:

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

For months now, travelers to the U.K. have endured some of the strictest testing requirements for entry from any country, even if they were fully vaccinated or had recently recovered from COVID-19. Tests must have been booked through approved government providers; free National Health Service tests have been forbidden for the purposes of travel. The cost of these tests has added hundreds of dollars to the cost of a family trip.

Related: UK may relax travel bans on the US and EU — but don’t expect the US to follow suit

Today’s news will be warmly welcomed by the U.K. (and U.S.) travel industry, which has endured another very difficult summer despite the U.K. forging ahead with its vaccination program. Allowing passengers to use lateral flow/antigen tests for their day two test, ditching the pre-departure test for applicable travelers and simplifying the overall restrictions and requirements for international travel are big steps toward boosting traveler confidence.

Additional reporting by Melanie Lieberman and Clint Henderson. 

Featured photo by by Hollie Adams/Getty Images.

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