Along with the planned lifting of all national Covid-restrictions, 19 July 2021 will see significant changes to the quarantine requirements for those returning to England from "amber" countries.
From 4am on 19 July 2021, the government will lift its blanket recommendation that people should not travel to amber countries.
In addition, arrivals to England who have been fully vaccinated (with an NHS administered vaccine in the UK), or who are on a formally approved UK vaccine clinical trial, will not need to quarantine upon their return. It’s important to note that “fully vaccinated” means that 14 days has passed since the final vaccine dose was given. Passengers travelling from amber countries will need to provide proof of their vaccination status to carriers in advance of their travel, either via the NHS app or via an NHS Covid Pass letter (which can be obtained by calling 119, although travellers will need to factor in time for this to arrive by post).
Despite the quarantine requirement being dispensed with, passengers will still be required to provide proof of a negative test pre-departure, and will also be required to carry out a PCR test on or before two days after arrival in England. However, the existing requirement to take a PCR test on day eight after arrival is also being scrapped.
Children under 18 will also not be required to isolate upon their return to England. In relation to Covid testing, the rules will change so that:
- Children aged four and under will continue to be exempt from any Covid testing
- Children aged five to 10 will only need to carry out a PCR test on day two after arrival
- Children aged 11 to 18 will need to take both a pre-departure test and a PCR test on day two after arrival
The upcoming changes will effectively mean that those returning to England from an amber country (and who are double vaccinated) will be subject to the same requirements as all arrivals from green countries.
However, those who are not fully vaccinated will still be required to follow the current quarantine requirements when returning from an amber country – to take a pre-departure test, quarantine for 10 days on arrival (unless using the Test to Release scheme), and take PCR tests on days two and eight after arrival.
Beware - the rules could change quickly
For those wanting to travel, whether for personal or business reasons, the rule changes will likely be welcomed. However, there is always the risk that a country with "amber" status could be upgraded to the red list, often with little notice. If a country’s status changes from amber to red during a trip abroad, passengers could then be forced to quarantine in a government-contracted hotel for 10 days upon their return to England.
The Foreign Office, whose travel advice is independent from the government’s traffic light system, has also warned those keen to make travel plans that they will not be approving travel to all amber countries by 19 July, meaning that travel insurance policies could also be affected.
It is hoped that the government will soon announce further changes to the testing and quarantine requirements for UK arrivals from green and red countries for those who are fully vaccinated, as well as fully vaccinated non-UK residents wanting to travel to England.
Travellers should also check the quarantine and testing rules in place for their destination well in advance of travel.