The UK government has announced an overhaul of its international travel rules which means that fully vaccinated travellers from Murcia will no longer need to pay for a COVID-19 test before returning home.
The new rules, which also include a simplification of the “traffic light system”, are due to come into effect from 4 October. From that date there will only be a single “red list”, with countries such as Spain that are currently classified as “amber” enjoying less restrictive protocols.
Under the new testing regime, people who have had both jabs will not be required to take an expensive pre-departure test before leaving countries and destinations (such as Murcia) that are not on the red list.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said that, later in October, returning travellers would also be able to replace the day-two PCR test with a cheaper rapid lateral flow test.
For the moment, the announcement only applies for those returning to England, as the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments have been granted devolved control over travel matters. Generally, they have followed the UK government’s guidance during the pandemic but, while Scotland and Wales have indicated they will simplify their own traffic light systems, they remain hesitant about easing the testing requirements.
Wales said it would “carefully consider” the proposed changes on testing while noting they are “not without risk”; and Scotland ruled out removing the requirement for PCR tests, due to “significant concerns at the impact on public health”.
Announcing the updated protocols, Shapps said the new travel rules would remain in place “at least until the new year… The purpose is to make it easier to travel without the bureaucracy, without so many tests, and with a greater level of certainty now that we’ve got so many people vaccinated.
“Public health has always been at the heart of our international travel policy and, with more than eight in 10 adults fully vaccinated in the UK, we are now able to introduce a proportionate updated structure that reflects the new landscape.”
In Spain, minister for health Carolina Darias recalled last week that at the end of August the country had reached its target of having 70 per cent of the population fully vaccinated – eight months from the start of the campaign.
During a speech at the 71st WHO-Euro Regional Committee she also highlighted the importance of “extraordinary global responses to global health emergencies”.
Noting that “no country and no region will be safe until we are all safe”, she said Spain was committed to collaborating with the vaccination process and narrowing the existing gap between the global “North” and “South”, including in Europe.
According to Darias, Spain has already donated more than six million vaccines to Latin America through the COVAX mechanism, and plans to reach a total of 22.5 million by the end of the year.
In the meantime, the government’s public health authorities have announced that they will administer additional “booster” vaccine doses to an expanded group of people, including organ transplant recipients, patients receiving Immunosuppressive drugs and nursing home residents.