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Travel to the UK from 4 October – what are the new COVID rules?

The new rules differ for those travelling from the single red list countries and those from the rest of the world.


The UK Government has announced that from 4 a.m. on 4 October 2021 the rules on international travel to England are set to change. The traffic light system currently in operation will cease to exist, instead being replaced by a “single red list of countries” and “the rest of the world”.

The new rules differ for those travelling from the single red list countries and those from the rest of the world, with conditions of entry to the UK focusing on whether an individual is fully vaccinated or not and the type of vaccine received.

For any business that may have mirrored the current rules in any internal polices, these may now need to be amended in line with the changes next week.

Below is a summary of what you need to know.

Rest of the world countries

Fully vaccinated individuals

What are the individual obligations?

If an individual arriving into the UK is fully vaccinated, then they:

  • must have completed the full vaccination course at least 14 days before arrival into the UK
  • must take a COVID test two days after arrival into the UK;
  • must complete a passenger locator form during the 48 hours before arrival into the UK; and
  • must produce evidence of full vaccination

There will no longer be a requirement to:

  • take a pre-departure COVID test;
  • take a COVID test eight days after arrival into the UK; and
  • quarantine in the UK for 10 days after arrival.

What qualifies as fully vaccinated?

Individuals will be deemed to satisfy the requirements of full vaccination if:

  • they have been vaccinated under an approved vaccination programme in the UK, Europe, USA, or UK overseas vaccine programme; or
  • they are vaccinated with a full course of the Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna or Janssen vaccines from a relevant public health body in Australia, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bahrain, Brunei, Canada, Dominica, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, New Zealand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, or the United Arab Emirates (UAE); or
  • they are under 18 years of age and resident in the UK or one of the listed countries or territories with approved vaccination programmes; or
  • they are taking part in an approved COVID-19 vaccine trial in the UK or USA.

Vaccination evidence – what is required?

  • a digital or paper document from a national or state-level public health body detailing the individual’s name; date of birth; vaccine brand and date of vaccination; or
  • an EU Digital COVID Certificate for those arriving at the UK from Europe; or
  • a CDC card for individuals who have been fully vaccinated in the USA confirming they have received had a full course of an FDA-approved vaccine in the USA.

Unvaccinated individuals

Categories of unvaccinated travellers

An individual will fall into this category if:

  • they are unvaccinated; or
  • partially vaccinated; or
  • are unable to provide the required evidence of vaccination.

An individual deemed unvaccinated arriving into the UK must:

  • undertake pre-departure tests;
  • take a COVID PCR test on day 2 and Day 8;
  • complete a passenger locator form during the 48 hours preceding their arrival into the UK; and
  • quarantine for 10 days on arrival into the UK.

Red list countries

Whilst the list of countries is reducing, those individuals travelling from a red list country to the UK will continue to face strict measures to enter the UK.

Individuals who have been in a red list country 10 days before wishing to enter the UK can only enter if:

  • they are a British or Irish national; or
  • they have residence rights in the UK.

This rule applies irrespective of vaccination status (including those fully vaccinated).

Those eligible and planning to travel to England from a red list country must:

  • within 72 hours prior to travelling take a pre-departure COVID test; and
  • complete a passenger locator form within the 48 hours before arrival in England; and
  • upon arrival in England quarantine in a managed hotel; and
  • book and take two COVID tests.


Whilst the imminent change will be a welcome relief for many, there remains confusion around the rules. This is heightened by the review of the red list countries every three weeks.

Further, those who have been fully vaccinated in India, Africa, and Latin America with the same vaccines as those accepted from the US, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, or an EU country will not satisfy the fully vaccinated criteria for England. As a result, those individuals will still need to quarantine for 10 days upon arrival in the UK.

Uncertainty is certain. Please get in touch if you want to discuss the changes.

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