Covid: 11 countries to be removed from travel red list as it is ‘less effective’ in slowing Omicron variant

The travel red list is “now less effective in slowing the incursion of Omicron from abroad,” the Health Secretary said

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The 11 countries on the coronavirustravel red list will be removed from 4am on Wednesday (15 December), the Health Secretary has confirmed.

Hotel quarantine for travellers arriving in England will also be abandoned.

The travel list was resurrected last month in a bid to reduce the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

People arriving from 11 African countries - including South Africa, Nigeria and Zambia - were required to spend 11 nights in a quarantine hotel at a cost of £2,285 for solo travellers.

What Sajid Javid said about removing all countries from red list

Sajid Javid told the House of Commons that the spread of Omicron in the UK and the world means the travel red list is “now less effective in slowing the incursion of Omicron from abroad”.

He told MPs: “Whilst we’ll maintain our temporary testing measures for international travel, we will be removing all 11 countries from the travel red list effective from 4am tomorrow.”

How the travel industry reacted to the red list update

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of industry body Airlines UK, claimed the decision “makes complete sense but doesn’t go nearly far enough”.

He said: “If the red list isn’t necessary given that Omicron is established here at home, then neither are the costly emergency testing and isolation measures imposed on even fully vaccinated travellers, which again put us completely at odds with the rest of Europe.

“It is testing that is the deterrent to travel, not the relatively limited red list.”

Travellers entering the UK are required to take a pre-departure test and self-isolate until they receive a negative result from a post-arrival test.

Mr Alderslade warned that the key Christmas and New Year booking period will be “undermined” unless testing rules are eased.

“This is make or break for UK aviation and if the Government is unable to row back from these restrictions over the New Year, it will need to step in with further economic support for a sector that again has been singled out,” he added.

South Africa ‘welcomes’ red list update

David Frost, chief executive of trade body South Africa Tourism Services, said: “This is welcome news but red-listing southern Africa for just three weeks caused incalculable damage to jobs and livelihoods in the region, with little discernible benefit to health outcomes in the UK.

“The UK Government must now consign this blunt instrument to history and recognise the devastating impact red lists have to confidence amongst the travelling public.”

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