If you’ve got a holiday abroad booked, then you’d be forgiven for despairing at the ever-changing advice on ‘if to travel’ at the moment. Even with the prospect of travel for those of us that are double jabbed, many countries could still decide not to let Brits in or could impose further restrictions. And as we’ve seen recently, it’s possible for any country on the green list to move to the amber or even red lists with little notice.
Keeping on top of all the guidance can be tricky, so here’s an overview of the key things to bear in mind if you want to take to the skies.
What’s the latest announcement?
Travellers and holiday companies expecting hassle free travel for the double vaccinated are somewhat disappointed. The Government announced 16 new countries are on the ‘green list’, meaning we can travel to these destinations without quarantining when we return to the UK. But there are still issues.
Look at the small print and you’ll see all countries on the green list – old and new – are on the ‘green watch’ list. That means they could go on to the amber list at any time.
You also need to be clear – and keep checking – on the arrival policies of a country you’re planning to go to. Even if countries are going on the UK’s green list for travel, it doesn’t automatically mean you can enter (or leave) them without restriction. As examples, Portugal and the ‘recently added to the green list’ Malta are insisting you quarantine on arrival unless you have had your second jab at least two weeks before you travel.
What about the vaccine passport?
Many were hoping that those who have been double jabbed could travel free from quarantine restrictions, but this hasn’t happened yet. The Government has argued that much is still unclear, including an acceptable scheme or proof of vaccine for all or some nations, establishing the vaccine status of people coming into the UK from abroad and what happens with children.
The key focus for the UK that still needs to be addressed is if double-vaccinated people returning from an amber country will have to quarantine or not and the tests that they’d be required to take. This may happen ‘later in the summer’ but is far from guaranteed.
PCR versus lateral flow tests
There’s been much confusion about these tests but you can take an antigen test, such as a lateral flow test or a nucleic acid test, such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test before travel, providing the test you choose meets certain performance standards. However this is the standard acceptable for travelling to England. You will need to check the requirements of your destination country before you board, including the type of test it accepts.
Even more confusingly, people have been turned away at the boarding gate despite using PCR tests if they are self-administered, as opposed to visiting an official testing body – so don’t chance it. Check with your airline, and the tourist advice for each country you’re visiting, before travel so you know what tests they accept. And make sure any tests you need are booked before travel with time to spare – it’s not a last minute option.
Finally, make sure you are prepped for the country going on to the red or amber lists, both in terms of having access to a flow of cash or credit. You may be subject to significant costs for tests or accommodation that you weren’t expecting if any guidelines change both soon before or during your visit abroad.