There was celebration among holiday-seekers in the UK last week, as certain travel restrictions for Britons were dropped. Would-be travellers from South Africa also looked hard at the new regulations, calculating what the new rules could mean for them as would-be travellers into the UK.

But UK regulations have become a dense web of Green, Amber, Amber Plus and Red Lists, for vaccinated and unvaccinated passengers and negotiating the regulations could be more complicated than ever.


The most important new regulation for travel into the UK is that Amber List countries became ‘can-go’ destinations for Britons, meaning that some (but not all) passengers are allowed to arrive in the UK and undergo no isolation period at all.

At the same time the adjustment to the Amber List regulations was made, so the Amber List itself contracted to 130 countries, with around 10 countries moved to the Red List.

The Amber List dictates that people arriving in the UK from those countries are not required to quarantine or isolate,

  • if they are double-vaccinated at least 14 days before travel,

  • and if that vaccination process took place in the UK
    (or its territories), under the auspices of the National Health Services. 
    Those qualifying for this treatment have only to take a PCR test on arrival, up to day two after arrival. If positive they are obliged to then quarantine for 10 days at home.

Entrants into the UK from Amber List countries, who are unvaccinated, or not fully vaccinated under the auspices of the National Health Services are obliged to isolate at home (or in the place in which they are staying) and submit to PCR tests on day two and day eight.

Within a week of the start of the new regulations, a new list emerged –‘Amber-Plus’.  France was immediately placed on it, due to its high incidence of the Beta variant of the Covid-19 virus, and is currently the only one on the list. COVID data-watchers are predicting that France might exit this list next week or earlier due to its falling stats, and move to the Amber List. But the data-watchers say that Spain and Greece are likely to be declared Amber-Plus next.

Travellers entering the UK from Amber-Plus countries, whether fully vaccinated under the NHS or not, must self-isolate for 10 days, as if they are unvaccinated, with PCR tests on days two and eight. Those who have been fully vaccinated may take an additional test on day five, leaving isolation early if the result is negative, but they still must take the day eight test. Under Amber-Plus, people who are not fully vaccinated must self-isolate for the full 10 days – as they do for amber list countries.

The UK’s Green List comprises 29 countries, many of them British Overseas Territories. Four are on the Green Watch list (they are in danger of changing status from Green to Amber or Red overnight) and another 13 are at risk of going on to the Green Watch List. If these all end up on either the Amber or Red List, the only holiday destinations that non-vaccinated Britons will be able to take freely without having to isolate on return,  will be Australia (which doesn’t allow tourists), Brunei (on the island of Borneo), Falkland Islands (South Atlantic), Faroe Islands (North Sea), Gibraltar, Iceland, Malta, New Zealand (which doesn’t allow tourists), Singapore (which doesn’t allow tourists), South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands (South Atlantic, described as “remote and inhospitable” by Google maps) and St Helena and Ascension in the South Atlantic. For sun-seeking Britons, only three of the accessible destinations could be described as holiday destinations – Brunei, Malta and Gibraltar.

South Africa remains on the Red List, along with 55 other countries, 24 of them African. To enter the UK, residents of these countries must be a British or Irish National, or have residence rights in the UK. The situation remains as it was –  these travellers must have a pre-booked and paid quarantine hotel package, including 2 COVID-19 tests.