Millions of people living outside the UK will be allowed quarantine-free entry following the most significant lifting of restrictions on international travel in months. Here’s what you need to know:
What is changing?
People double-jabbed in the US and most of Europe will have their vaccination status recognised in the UK from 4am on Monday 4 August.
Previously, only those who have had both doses on the NHS could get a “Covid pass” allowing them to avoid isolation if coming from an amber-list country. This locked out Britons living abroad who were fully vaccinated, much to their frustration.
The change was decided on Wednesday and will affect British citizens based overseas who want to visit family and friends at home, as well as US and European nationals. The European countries included are all but one of the 27 EU member states, as well as Norway, Iceland and Switzerland, plus the microstates of Lichtenstein, Monaco, Andorra and Vatican City.
France is the only exception as it remains on the “amber plus” list, meaning double-jabbed travellers from the country cannot escape quarantine and still have to isolate at home for up to 10 days, or be released after day five under the “test to release” scheme.
What about people leaving the UK?
This announcement only relates to the restrictions on people arriving in the country, it does not affect the hurdles people will face when trying to leave to visit the US or Europe.
The White House said this week there will be no change to its existing rules which tell US citizens not to travel to the UK and bar everyone else from entering the country if they have been in the UK in the past 14 days.
Despite Boris Johnson and Joe Biden forming a “taskforce” at the G7 last month to try to come to a mutual agreement, there has so far been no breakthrough, so the UK has gone it alone.
Do I still need to get tested?
Those who have been fully vaccinated in the eligible countries will need to test negative before departure and within two days of arrival. They will not have to take a test on day eight.
What about children?
Under-18s are being jabbed in the US, so may be inoculated, but some coming from Europe may not be. The UK government says that children who normally reside in the US or Europe will be treated the same as a double-vaccinated adult, meaning they will be exempt from quarantine and not need to take a day-eight test – but they will still need to take a pre-departure test and another before day two. Those aged between five and 10 will only need to complete a day-two test.
How will people prove their vaccination status?
The valid ID Europeans will have to produce to prove their inoculation is the EU’s “digital Covid certificate”. Americans do not have an app, so will instead need to show the CDC card they were given when they were jabbed.
Why is the UK going ahead with this move?
Ministers are keen to capitalise on the vaccine rollout’s success to help reunite families and friends separated during the Covid pandemic, and also restore business travel to help boost the economy.
Will this only affect England, or the whole UK?
Given health is a devolved matter, it will be up to the administrations in Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh to decide whether to follow the lead of ministers responsible for England – the Guardian has been told they are likely to.
What has been the reaction?
Airlines have largely welcomed the move but said it came too late and the government had been unnecessarily dragging its heels.
However, Labour called the move “reckless” and warned it could lead to variants like Delta being imported into the UK. Prof Christine Pagel of UCL also said double-vaccinated people could still catch Covid and seed it into countries, and that it was variants she was most worried about.
What about the red, amber and green lists?
These are updated every three weeks and were not due to be reviewed today. The next announcement will come on Thursday 9 August and should take effect from the following Monday.
Spain is in danger of being added to the “amber plus list”, though some government figures are hopeful France will be removed from it and placed back on the regular amber list.