England, Scotland ease Covid travel curbs

London (AFP) –


Pandemic restrictions on travel into England and Scotland are to be eased, officials said Friday, replacing a complicated "traffic light" watchlist with a simpler regime for fully vaccinated arrivals.

The "amber" list covering travel from much of the world, including Europe, will be abolished in the UK's two largest nations, reflecting high levels of vaccination against Covid-19 by other countries.

The reform comes after strong disquiet among the public and the travel industry over byzantine rules that made summer holidays prohibitively expensive for many families.

"Today's changes mean a simpler, more straightforward system," UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in a statement, announcing the changes for England.

"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."

Only the "red" list will remain, requiring travellers to quarantine in government-approved hotels if they are arriving from Covid hotspots.

But eight countries will come off the English and Scottish red list from next Wednesday -- Bangladesh, Egypt, Kenya, the Maldives, Oman, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Turkey.

From October 4, fully vaccinated travellers coming to England from other destinations will no longer have to take a pre-departure test.

And from the end of October, they will not have to take an expensive PCR test on day two of their stay in England, only a rapid lateral flow test.

The Shapps statement applied only to England, but Scotland's separate government followed suit with parallel changes scrapping the amber list.

However, Edinburgh retained the requirement for pre-departure and day-two PCR tests, "due to significant concerns at the impact on public health".

All the UK's devolved administrations -- including Wales and Northern Ireland -- have followed previous changes to travel rules announced by the UK government in London.

The Welsh government said it would "carefully consider" the announcement by London, but also voiced concern at the changes to the testing regime.

Nevertheless, UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: "As global vaccination efforts continue to accelerate and more people gain protection from this dreadful disease, it is right that our rules and regulations keep pace."

Travel industry bodies welcomed the move, while the British Chambers of Commerce said it could provide travellers and businesses with "confidence and clarity needed after so much uncertainty".

British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle also hailed the changes but urged UK ministers to scrap all testing for fully vaccinated passengers "as soon as possible".

Virgin Atlantic chief executive Shai Weiss said Prime Minister Boris Johnson should go further by negotiating the removal of US travel restrictions on UK nationals.

Johnson is due to attend the UN General Assembly in New York next week, and could meet President Joe Biden during the trip.