Heathrow airport
Travellers returning to England from Turkey, Pakistan, and the Maldives will not have to quarantine on their return as they are removed from the so-called COVID red list for travel. Image Credit: Bloomberg

London: England set out measures to boost international travel on Friday, abandoning expensive COVID-19 testing requirements for fully vaccinated travellers, scrapping its traffic light system and adding eight countries to its safe list.

Travellers returning to England from Turkey, Pakistan, and the Maldives will not have to quarantine on their return as they are removed from the so-called COVID red list for travel, British transport minister Grant Shapps said.

Shapps also said under the new proposals destinations will simply be ranked low or high risk, instead of red, amber and green.

Those who’ve had two shots will be exempt from a pre-departure test before flying from nations that aren’t high risk, while screening after arrival will be downgraded to quicker and cheaper lateral-flow tests, the Department for Transport said.

A so-called traffic-light system used to categorize countries will also be replaced, with a single “red list” for locations where infection rates are high and “simplified measures for the rest of the world,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in a message on Twitter.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has faced months of pressure to water down border curbs blamed for a muted recovery in travel demand. Industry bosses have said that PCR tests required for arrivals even from medium-risk locations have acted as a brake on bookings because of the complexity of arranging them and costs that could double the price of a family holiday.

The UK reopened non-essential travel in May. Fully vaccinated Britons arriving from most countries were allowed to skip self-isolation from July, a privilege later extended to citizens from the US and European Union.

At the same time, testing remained mandatory for all nations, while a cycle of three-weekly updates meant people faced unexpected costs if places they were due to visit went from green to amber, or 10 days of hotel quarantine at a cost of 2,285 pounds ($3,153) if they turned red.

The removal of pre-departure tests and traffic light simplification will be introduced on Oct. 4 with lateral-flow tests introduced later in the month. The number of red-list countries will be cut by eight from September 22, with the the tourist destinations of Turkey and the Maldives among those removed.