The government is expected to announce significant changes to the present UK travel rules today, 17 September.
There is no clarity on the exact timing of the announcement, but government sources have suggested that it will be in the next couple of hours, around 5 or 6pm.
Follow travel update LIVE: Latest updates from today’s announcement
Transport secretary Grant Shapps earlier confirmed that the update will take place today, tweeting: “I’ll set out measures to simplify international travel later today in order to reduce costs, take advantage of higher levels of vaccination, and keep us all safe,” adding three transport-themed emojis representing aviation, cruise ships and rail travel.
I'll set out measures to simplify international travel later today in order to reduce costs, take advantage of higher levels of vaccination, and keep us all safe. ✈️🚢🚆
— Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) September 17, 2021
With the health secretary and Prime Minister both hinting at larger changes to the UK’s travel system in the past week, it is understood that this will not be a traditional “traffic light” update as we know it.
Sajid Javid announced on Tuesday that a new framework for international travel will be published by the government, with more details to be revealed ahead of the Global Travel Taskforce’s review on October 1.
Prime minister Boris Johnson subsequently referenced significant changes to the international travel rules at his Tuesday press conference with Chris Whitty, saying: “We must do whatever we can to stop the virus being reimported and to control new variants - that’s why we have the rules.
“I know travellers have been frustrated this summer at having to take tests, but I think it is reasonable to ask people to do that, to help protect the population.
“We’ll be saying a lot more shortly about the traffic light system, about simplifying and what we can do to make the burdens of testing less onerous for people coming back into the country.”
Since then, government sources have confirmed that there will be an update later today.
It is unclear whether the announcement will be a “roadmap” out of the current travel rules, or one large set of changes to both travel testing and the traffic light lists.
The Times reported this morning that the red list is expected to be “halved”, with countries including Turkey coming off the high-risk list “in time for [October] half term”.
“We should get an announcement on Thursday,” tweeted travel PR CEO Paul Charles, who has revealed insider information about the lists prior to past announcements.
— Paul Charles (@PPaulCharles) September 14, 2021
Since May, the Department for Transport (DfT) has been deciding which countries are “safe” enough for travel on a three-weekly basis, based on the risk of arrivals reimporting coronavirus infections from those destinations.
In the last update on 26 August, the green list saw seven additions but no removals at the last announcement on 26 August, taking it to 43 destinations.
Meanwhile, Thailand and Montenegro were both moved to the 62-strong red list, necessitating 11 nights of hotel quarantine for travellers who visit.
The Independent’s travel correspondent, Simon Calder, has made his predictions for what may change at today’s update.
Big travel announcement tomorrow. Updated speculation here: https://t.co/vftlXNAZpT
— Simon Calder (@SimonCalder) September 16, 2021
Calder has also spoken to several data analysts to get their predictions for countries that could or should come off of the red list.
How can I find out the latest updates?
The Independent’s travel team will be live blogging all updates as soon as they’re revealed throughout the day. Check out our rolling news coverage here for all the latest additions to the traffic light lists.