London: From 4 am on Wednesday, all 11 countries on the UK’s travel blacklist will be lifted, the government announced.
The countries on the list are Namibia, Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Malawi, Nigeria, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa
After the introduction of the Omicron strain in late November, the red list was re-established as a precaution.
However, Health Secretary Sajid Javid claimed that the problem had become so widespread that the guidelines were no longer useful.
“Now that there is community transmission of Omicron in the UK and Omicron has gone so widely around the world,” he told Parliament, “the travel red list is less helpful in preventing Omicron intrusion from overseas.”
“While we will keep our temporary testing methods in place for international travel, all 11 nations will be removed from the travel red list as of 4 am tomorrow.”
All visitors to the UK from countries on the red list must pay for and self-isolate for ten days in a pre-booked, government-approved accommodation.
However, now that all 11 nations have been removed from the list, people in managed quarantine will be permitted to leave early and “follow the regulations as if they had arrived from a non-red list country.”
Some passengers spent thousands of pounds to stay in government-approved quarantine hotels, but complained of disorganised service and inedible food.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Stephen Barclay, told the House of Commons that anyone who has tested positive will be kept in isolation.
Javid previously stated that he was “extremely persuaded” by requests for people to be reimbursed and that he wanted to make an announcement on the matter soon.
The goal of adding countries to the red list was to act rapidly to stop Omicron from spreading.
Now that word has gone throughout the community, the government no longer believes that putting people from a select group of nations in hotels is a good idea.
It will be great news to anyone planning to travel to the UK from countries such as South Africa and Nigeria, or who have postponed their return.
However, those who were caught up in the red list’s rebirth, which only began around a fortnight ago, will be disappointed. Some people who have already paid for hotel accommodations want the government to cover their expenses.
All restrictions are to be abolished, according to the travel industry. Businesses believe that testing measures will stifle their recovery. The government does not appear to be ready to go that far just yet.
This will make travel operators apprehensive, as they rely on the holiday booking surge in late December and early January.
The idea has sparked outrage in African countries, with the United Nations dubbing the prohibition on non-UK residents entering England “travel apartheid.”
The UK statement had “came just in time to allow relatives and friends to unite for the festive season,” according to South African Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.
The travel industry has also expressed concern about the limitations, claiming that they were hurting commerce.
The chairman of trade organisation Airlines UK, Tim Alderslade, said that while removing the red list made “perfect sense,” the government should also remove the remaining travel restrictions.
Currently, all arrivals must do Covid tests within 48 hours of departing for the UK and PCR testing within two days of arrival, regardless of where they flew from.
“If the red list isn’t necessary now that Omicron has established itself here at home,” he said, “then neither are the costly emergency testing and isolation measures imposed on even fully vaccinated travellers, which again puts us at odds with the rest of Europe.”
These testing measures will be evaluated in the first week of January, according to Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps.
“As always, we keep all of our travel measures under review,” he said on Twitter, “and we may impose new restrictions if there is a need to do so to protect public health.”