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International travel restrictions to be relaxed and simplified


By David Porter

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The international travel traffic light system of restrictions put in place to protect public health is to be substantially revised to make it simpler for travellers.

Green and amber classifications will merge, but the red list will be retained for those countries deemed to have high Covid-19 case rates or variants of concern.

Among other countries, Turkey, Egypt and the Maldives will all be removed from the red list from 4am on Wednesday, September 22.

The current amber-level restrictions will become the default for travellers from non-red countries, with eligible fully vaccinated travellers able to benefit from quarantine-free travel.

The number of countries recognised in the eligible vaccinated traveller policy (currently only UK, EU/EFTA and USA), is being expanded to recognise countries where vaccine certification meets appropriate standards.

These include Canada, Australia, Israel, and New Zealand – with these opening up from October 4 – the date the current traffic light system formally ends.

The Scottish Government recently relaxed rules, allowing people travelling from non-red list countries to choose from a variety of private test providers.

A UK Government decision to implement proposals to remove the requirement for a pre-departure test in England and to use lateral flow tests on day two have not been adopted at this stage in Scotland due to significant concerns at the impact on public health.

The testing of international travellers, both before and after travel, is an important part of our border health surveillance to minimise the risk of importing variants of concern.

The Scottish Government aims to maintain a four nations approach to international travel restrictions, but will need to carefully consider the risks associated with aligning with the UK Government.

Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport, Michael Matheson
Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport, Michael Matheson

Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport Michael Matheson said the simplification of the system recognises the success of global vaccination programmes.

He said: “This is a major step but one with sensible safeguards built in recognising the success of the Scottish Government’s vaccination programme.

“The expansion of the eligible vaccinated traveller policy combined with the changes to the traffic light system will provide a welcome boost to Scotland’s tourism industry.

“However, we have concerns that the UK Government’s proposals to remove the requirement for a pre-departure test for some travellers will weaken our ability to protect the public health of Scotland’s communities. While we want to maintain a four nations approach to these matters, we need to consider urgently their implications.”

Countries removed from the red list from 4 am on September 22 are:

Bangladesh

Egypt

Kenya

Maldives

Oman

Pakistan

Sri Lanka

Turkey

Countries added to the eligible vaccinated traveller policy from October 4 are:

Canada

Australia

Israel

New Zealand

Singapore

Antigua & Barbuda

Barbados

Brunei

Taiwan

Dominica

Japan

South Korea

Qatar

Kuwait

Malaysia

Saudi Arabia

Bahrain

Following a review, the existing travel regulations have been consolidated, with minor amendments, into a single instrument.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (International Travel and Operator Liability) (Scotland) Regulations 2021 come into force on Monday, September 20, replacing the existing regulations.

Policy and requirements on travellers remain the same through this change.


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