Traffic Light System Update and Travel to USA

The UK Government have announced that ‘traffic light system’ will be scrapped at the beginning of October and on 4th October 2021 the system will be replaced with only the ‘red list’. Furthermore, travel to the USA will also be allowed for fully vaccinated travellers in November 2021.

In this article we look at the removal of the ‘traffic light system’ (“TLS”) and a return to travel to the USA.

What are the changes to the traffic light system?

For the past several months, we have all been anticipating the changes in the ranking of countries added or taken off the ‘red list’ and moved to either the ‘green or amber list’ – well no more! In an announcement made this week, the Government has announced that on the 4th October this system will be replaced with only the ‘red list’, with any country not being on that list, will be considered ‘green’; no more ‘amber’.

As we move away from traffic lights and towards a system that focuses more on vaccination status of the traveller, many in the industry feel this is a step in the right direction for tour operators and travel agents who now have further clarity on where they can operate their holidays and what the requirements are for travellers who are and are not vaccinated.

What about the rest of the UK?

The scrapping of the TLS will only apply to England and Scotland, Wales has said that they will carefully consider the idea, but have no plans to amend their current system at this time. A reminder of what the requirements are for the TLS can be found here, in a previous article written by Travlaw’s Nick Parkinson.

What does this mean for my customers who are fully vaccinated?

For UK citizens who are double jabbed, there is no longer a requirement to quarantine on return to the UK or take a PCR test before returning from the countries that are not on the ‘red list’ – this includes the whole of Europe. However, Scotland will still require their citizens to take a pre-departure test before their return to the UK, saying they will not be adopting the change at this stage due to ‘significant concern on the impact of public health’.

What if my customers are not vaccinated?

Old rules will apply to those who are not vaccinated:

  • Pre-departure test needed
  • PCR test on days 2 and 8 after arriving
  • Self-isolate for 10 days on returning from a ‘red list’ country

The opening of the USA

After 550 days of shut borders, USA President Joe Biden announced on 20th September 2021 that UK to US travel will be allowed for those who are fully vaccinated from November 2021– the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said that there is an exception, that children who are not yet eligible for the vaccination will also be allowed to travel, although full details of the policy have not yet been released (currently those in England can be vaccinated from 16+).

Any FDA or World Health Organisation authorised vaccines will allow traveller’s entry to the USA – here is a reminder of the vaccines currently eligible for US entry:

  • Pfizer
  • Oxford – AstraZeneca
  • Moderna
  • Johnson & Johnson (J&J vaccine)

Will there be any requirements for travellers travelling from the UK to US?

Yes! Travellers will need to demonstrate proof of vaccination before boarding and proof of a negative COVID -19 test within 3 days of departure. No quarantine will be required on return to the UK.

Be aware that there are individual states in the USA that may have stricter requirements, so advise your customers to always check before travelling.

In Summary

With 81.8% of the UK population fully vaccinated, travelling should be made easier. Even for those who are not 100% vaccinated having a single list of countries that are prepared to accept UK travellers who abide by entry requirements, is a positive step for tour operators to know where to send their customers with little hassle. As always though, it is recommended that tour operators should:

  1. Make sure customers are informed of the necessary requirements and practical steps that are needed prior and on return of travel from the UK.
  2. Ensuring that you and your suppliers are following the current Health & Safety guidance.
  3. Encouraging all customers to have suitable and appropriate travel insurance in place.

If you require further information on anything mentioned in this article – feel free to get in touch with us –


call 0113 258 0033

This article was originally published on: 23 September 2021

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