Covid Insight: COVID-Travel Update

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What is the traffic light list?

Countries are classes as green, amber or red – with different rules about quarantine and Covid tests. 

England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are all currently following the same rules. 

The government says you should not travel to any red or amber destinations, which means most countries. 

You do not have to quarantine after visiting green list countries.

At the same time as Portugal moving to the amber list, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Costa, Rica, Egypt, Sudan, Trinidad and Tobago and Sri Lanka have been added to the red list.  

Ministers review the traffic light lists every three weeks. Green countries can also go on a “watch list” if concerns emerge. 

Why was Portugal switched from green to amber? 

The UK government says it took Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores) off green list because of an increase in case rates in the country – and the emergence of a “Nepal variant”, a mutation of the Indian/Delta version of COVID-19. 

But officially, the mutation is not yet categorised as a variant.

Public Health English describes it as a “spike mutation of interest”, while the World Heath Organisation has spotted it in small numbers across the world – with more cases in the UK now than in Portugal. 

What are the rules for green list countries?

The green list includes only a small number of countries and territories, including Israel, Singapore and Iceland.

If you are returning from a green list country, you must:

  • Take a COVID-19 test before departure and have proof of a negative result 
  • Book a test for day two after your return 
  • Complete a passenger locator form 

 You do not need to quarantine unless your day-two test is positive, or NHS Test & Trace says you have travelled with someone who tested positive. 

What are the rules for amber list countries?

The vast majority of countries are on the amber list. 

The government advises people not to travel to amber destinations, although the travel industry has accused it of sending mixed signals. 

If returning from an amber list country, you must:

  • Take a COVID-19 test before departure and have proof of a negative result 
  • Book a COVID-19 test on day two and eight after you return
  • Complete a passenger location form 
  • Quarantine for 10 days 

It may be possible to end quarantine early in England if you pay for an additional test under the test-to-release scheme. 

What are the rules for amber list countries?

Red list countries are those the UK government says are at the highest risk from Covid, and should not be visited “except in the most extreme of circumstances”.

Dozens of countries are on the red list, including India, Pakistan, Turkey, Brazil and South Africa. 

If you have been in one in the last 10 days, you can only enter the UK if you are a UK or Irish National, or UK resident. 

If you are returning from a red list country, you must:

  • Take a COVID-19 test before departure and have proof of a negative result
  • Complete a passenger locator form
  • Self-isolate for 10 days in a government-approved quarantine hotel, which you must book and pay for in advance 

Rates are: 

  • 10 days (11 nights) for one adult – £1,750
  • Additional adult (or child over 11) – £650
  • Children aged five to 11 – £325

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