The UK government has announced that many travel restrictions for travel to England will be simplified, though the dates for the simplification range from Wednesday 22 September through to an unspecified date ‘by the end of October’.

Shapps said that it was ‘A new simpler, easier system which will reduce to burden on travellers.”

The countries on the red list has been reduced, slightly, from 62 down to 54, with destinations Sri Lanka, Oman, Turkey, Pakistan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Kenya and Egypt all moving from red to green from 0400 next Wednesday 22 September.

For the double vaccinated, the pre-departure testing for those heading back to England will be abolished from October 4, 2021. By the end of October, Shapps says that the Day 2 test will also be replaced with a lateral flow test. The date for this is likely to be of keen interest because of the dates of the October school half term holidays in England.

The news was welcomed by the travel industry, but there were also calls for the testing regime to be abolished altogether for those who are double vaccinated.  Sean Doyle, British Airways CEO and Chairman said, “Based on the scientific evidence, with fewer than 1 per cent of people returning from low-risk countries testing positive for Covid (lower than the UK’s rate), we urge ministers to keep this policy under review, eliminating all testing for fully vaccinated travellers as soon as possible in the future, in line with most other European countries.”

Sir Tim Clark, President of Emirates Airline said “Since the UAE was moved to the UK’s Amber List, we’ve seen a huge surge in demand and Emirates quickly resumed operations across the UK with plans to operate 77 flights a week between the UK and Dubai by the end of October…. We will continue to work with the UK 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.”

Shai Weiss, the CEO of Virgin Atlantic, said “The overdue simplification of the Government’s rules for international travel will deliver a significant boost to consumer confidence and UK economic recovery.”

“However, to ensure that Britain’s global ambitions are met, the vaccination status of those travellers receiving a full dose in countries like India and Hong Kong must be recognised, 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 UK Government to use the Prime Minister’s upcoming visit to the USA to work with the Biden administration to remove transatlantic restrictions for UK citizens, just as the UK has done for US travellers, helping loved ones to reunite safely and businesses to restore ties with our largest trading partner. The US already allows entry for travellers from Dubai, Turkey and much of South America for example. With the high rate of vaccination in the UK – 81% of UK adults have received both jabs – there is no reason to deny UK citizens from entering the US safely, and no reason to delay.”

Stewart Wingate, Gatwick Airport CEO, said: “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 incentivise airlines, increase competition and provide passengers with greater choice and flexibility.

Johan Lundgren, CEO of easyJet, said: This is a welcome step forward for our customers and a move that will make it significantly easier for the fully vaccinated to travel to Europe…. However, vaccinated travellers and those from low risk countries will still have to do an unnecessary test after arriving in the UK, making travel less affordable for all. Since 1 July there has been no testing at all for vaccinated travellers within the rest of Europe, and this is why the UK will continue to fall further behind the rest of Europe if this remains. We will continue to support travel restrictions that protect the vaccine programme and the NHS, and argue for the removal of measures that are not necessary for this.”

Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association, said: “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.”

Andrew Crawley, American Express Global Business Travel’s Chief Commercial Officer, said:

“We are pleased the Government is introducing a more streamlined system to minimise confusion and give travellers 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 UK 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.”

Dale Keller, chief executive of BAR UK said,  “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 recognises 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 recognised for all travellers to the UK. Testing requirements for many remains costly and excessive, and a significant number of inbound markets for the UK will still remain unfairly treated.”

“The UK’s complex and costly travel restrictions decimated passenger volumes over the summer while much of Europe capitalised 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 UK to begin to claw back lost ground as airlines attempt to rebuild their operations. Over the coming weeks airlines will continue their engagement with the UK Government on rapidly expanding international vaccination recognition so to develop strategies with the ambition of normalising travel as soon as feasible.”