Travel announcement expected later - with traffic light system to be replaced and Turkey taken off red list

Major changes to the rules for international travel are expected to be announced later, according to reports.

The green and amber lists will be merged into one category of low-risk nations and the number of places on the red list will be reduced, some reports say.

And according to The Times, Turkey could be taken off the red list in time for the October half-term.

Data expert Tim White has told Sky News that as many as 12 countries could lose their red designation: Argentina, Bangladesh, Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Kenya, Maldives, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Turkey.

There are currently 62 countries on the red list.

But the rules around red list travel – spending 11 nights in a quarantine hotel at a cost of £2,285 for solo travellers – are expected to remain the same.

Environment Secretary George Eustice told Sky News no decisions have yet been taken but he understands there “may be a meeting today to review those travel restrictions“.

There have also been suggestions that those who are fully vaccinated will no longer need to take a lateral flow test before their departure and a PCR test after their arrival.

The move would save travellers around £100 a trip.

However, Mr Eustice remained cautious, saying: “The rationale for the PCR test is that you can do genome sequencing of variants and can therefore detect possible variants of concern.

“Arguably the biggest threat to the travel industry is we do get another variant that manages to get around the variant, then we're into another lockdown and we don't want that, that's why we've taken this cautiously, step by step.”

At the moment, travellers who are not double jabbed have to take a PCR test and do not need to isolate after arriving from a nation on the green list.

Reports suggest this could be changed and under the new system they would be required to quarantine at home and take two tests when coming back from a low-risk location.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps's expected announcement will only apply to England.

But the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have also implemented recent changes announced in Westminster.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid indicated earlier this week that PCR tests for fully vaccinated travellers will be scrapped in favour of cheaper lateral flow tests, amid accusations some of the private testing companies listed on the government website have been advertising misleading low prices and providing poor service.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a Downing Street news conference on Monday that the government is considering “simplifying” the traffic light system for overseas travel and what it can do to make the “burdens of testing less onerous for those who are coming back into the country”.

Meanwhile, speculation that travel restrictions might soon be overhauled sent shares in airlines soaring.

Heathrow said this week it has gone from being Europe's busiest airport in 2019 to number 10 on the list, behind rivals in cities such as Amsterdam, Paris and Frankfurt, in part, thanks to travel restrictions.

But on Thursday, shares in easyJet and Wizz Air rose close to the top of the FTSE 250.

On the FTSE 100, British Airways owner IAG and airplane engine maker Rolls-Royce also benefited.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “Our top priority is to protect public health – decisions on our traffic light system are kept under regular review and are informed by the latest risk assessment from the Joint Biosecurity Centre and wider public health factors.”

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