Holiday bookings have surged since the government announced foreign travel rules were being simplified in England.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the travel traffic light system was being replaced with a single red list. And fully vaccinated people will no longer need a pre-departure test before returning from non-red list areas.


Travel firms said they had already seen an uptick in bookings and expected a busy weekend. As part of the changes announced by Mr Shapps on Friday, eight countries - Turkey, Pakistan, the Maldives, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya - are being removed from the red list from Wednesday.

It means people returning from these destinations will no longer have to stay in hotel quarantine. Mr Shapps also announced that from October travellers returning to England will no longer have to take a PCR test two days after arrival. Instead, they can take the quicker and cheaper lateral flow tests.

Huw Merriman, chair of the Commons transport select committee and who previously criticised PCR tests for being too expensive, welcomed the rule change. The Conservative MP said it would make foreign travel simpler, more cost-effective and reflected the UK's high vaccination rate - also saying that it would be interesting to see if there would be some form of registration requirement for lateral flow tests.

The travel rule changes will see families and loved ones reunited. Labour has raised concerns over how the monitoring for coronavirus variants will continue amid the plans to scrap the PCR test requirements.

Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon urged ministers to explain how it would continue and whether they planned to increase sequencing of tests, whilst the Scottish government said it would also drop the traffic light system but would not follow England in removing the pre-departure test requirement for fully vaccinated people returning from non-red list countries.

The country's Transport Secretary, Michael Matheson, said there were concerns that this would weaken the country’s ability to protect the public health of Scotland's communities. Scotland will also not copy England in using lateral flow tests on day two at this stage.

The decision to diverge from England's rules has been criticised by Edinburgh Airport, which said the move would further curtail Scotland's aviation and travel industries in their recovery. The Welsh government said it would consider the UK government's proposed changes, but health and social services minister Eluned Morgan warned they could weaken the line of defence on importing infection and increase opportunities for new infections and new variants to enter the UK and Wales.

Both administrations said that they would mirror the changes to the red list destinations. Northern Ireland's executive said it will follow other UK nations in dropping the traffic light system, but the proposed changes on pre-departure and post-arrival testing were still under consideration and would be discussed by ministers next week.