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COVID-19 entry requirements for the UK

There’s good news for frequent flyers! Just like Singapore’s Vaccinated Travel Lane and Thailand’s quarantine-free travel, the UK has joined the list of countries who are relaxing their borders, welcoming travellers, and learning to live with COVID-19. But it won’t be the case of getting your passports ready, applying for a visa (if you need it), booking flights and heading to the airport. Chances are you’ll need to look up vaccination requirements, testing requirements and more. In this Pacific Prime UK article, we’ll give you the full low down about the UK’s COVID-19 entry requirements.

Individual health insurance blog


UK’s traffic light system: Green, amber and red list 

When the UK decided to control its border to limit the spread of COVID-19, the country put in place a traffic light system for travellers. Put simply, this is a list that categorises countries into green, amber or red countries depending on the situation in said country. Accordingly, travellers entering the UK had to follow different rules depending on whether they’ve been in a Green, Amber or Red list country in the past 10 days prior to entering.

Green and Amber list arrivals had to take a pre-departure COVID-19 test and an on-arrival COVID-19 test (on or before Day 2 for Green list; on or before Day 2 and on or after Day 8 for Amber list). While Green list arrivals didn’t need to quarantine unless they or someone they travelled with tested positive, Amber list arrivals had to quarantine at home for 10 days. However, they were able to end quarantine early if they paid for a private COVID-19 test through the test-to-release scheme. 

As for Red list countries, entry was strictly limited to UK nationals, Irish nationals, and those with residence rights in the UK. Just like Green and Amber list arrivals, Red list arrivals had to take a pre-departure COVID-19 test. However, Red list arrivals were also required to book a quarantine hotel package (including two COVID-19 tests for Day 2 and Day 8).

Ever since this traffic light system was put into place, the UK has made updates to the system in order to simplify the process for travellers. 

Amber list scrapped

First, the Amber list was scrapped altogether. Countries were classified as either Green or Red list countries. There were also modified rules introduced for fully-vaccinated travellers from Green list countries, which this article will elaborate on in the next section. 

Countries taken off the red list 

Secondly, countries were gradually removed from the Red list as vaccination rates picked up. The final Red list contained 7 countries. On November 1st, it was announced that these remaining countries will also be taken off the Red list

Note: The Red list system will be kept in place and a country could be added back on it if cases rise there.

Approved vaccines for entry to the UK

So now that COVID-19 vaccination rates are picking up worldwide, you might be wondering: “What exemptions do fully-vaccinated arrivals get in the UK”? However, you should first ask the question: “What vaccines are accepted in the UK”? This is because not all vaccines are recognised, so the exemptions will only be given to travellers who meet the following vaccination requirements:

  • You must have been fully vaccinated at least 14 days before travelling from an approved programme in one of these countries and have the proof required, which varies depending on the country. For example, NHS COVID Pass, EU Digital COVID Certificate, a vaccine certificate, etc. 
  • You must have had either Oxford/AstraZeneca (two doses), Pfizer BioNTech (two doses), Moderna (two doses) or Janssen (one dose). Formulations of these vaccines, such as AstraZeneca Covishield, AstraZeneca Vaxzevria and Moderna Takeda, also qualify as approved vaccines. 
  • As of November 22nd,  World Health Organization’s Emergency Use Listing (WHO EUL) vaccines are also approved, namely,  Sinovac,
    Sinopharm Beijing, and Covaxin.

Entry requirements based on vaccination status in the UK

Depending on your vaccination status in the UK, you’ll have to follow different entry requirements:

  • Fully vaccinated travellers must take a COVID-19 test on or before Day 2 of arrival using either a PCR or lateral flow test. A 10-day home quarantine will only be required for those who test positive. Note that all under 18s coming to England will be treated as fully vaccinated travellers at the border. 
  • Unvaccinated travellers must take a pre-departure COVID-19 test, a COVID-19 test on Day 2 and Day 8 of arrival and do a 10-day home quarantine. However, they may be able to end quarantine early if they pay for a private COVID-19 test using the test-to-release scheme. 

Secure travel insurance via Pacific Prime UK today!

Even though travel insurance isn’t technically required to travel to the UK, it’s important to point out that you typically won’t have access to public funds and the NHS if you travel there as a tourist/short-term visitor. In the event that you do fall ill, travel insurance ensures you can access healthcare without paying out of pocket for it. What’s more, you can also consider international health insurance if you travel abroad frequently. 

For those who do have access to the NHS (such as UK residents), you may still want to consider securing some kind of private health insurance. This is because the NHS is notorious for its long wait times and it can often be hard to get an appointment with the doctor when you need it. As we know, time is everything. The sooner you address a health problem, the better the health outcomes will be. 

With over two decades in the health insurance sector, Pacific Prime UK can help you secure the best health plan for your needs and budget. Get in touch with us today for 100% unbiased advice, a tailored plan comparison and a free quote!

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Content Creator at Pacific Prime UK
Suphanida aims to demystify the world of insurance by creating informative and engaging content. As a wordsmith, she spends the majority of her day writing and editing website content, blog posts, in-depth guides, and more.

Outside of work, Suphanida enjoys travelling to new places and immersing herself in different cultures.