The UK government has scrapped its red list as Omicron cases rise across the country. Health Secretary Sajid Javid said that maintaining a red list is no longer effective with Omicron so widespread. The new rules came into force at 04:00 on Wednesday, with 11 countries in total removed from the red list.
In response to the emergence of COVID-19 variant Omicron, the UK reintroduced its red list on November 26th. As of December 14th, the red list had 11 countries – Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
However, the UK has now removed all 11 countries from the red list, with restrictions considered almost obsolete due to the proliferation of Omicron across the country.
From 4am on Weds 15 Dec, ALL 11 countries will be removed from England's travel red 🔴 list #Internationaltravel (1/3)
— Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) December 14, 2021
Health Secretary Sajid Javid told Parliament,
“Now that there is community transmission of Omicron in the UK and Omicron has spread so widely across the world, the travel red list is now less effective in slowing the incursion of Omicron from abroad.”
Under the UK’s COVID rules, any visitors from countries on the red list must complete a 10-day quarantine in a government-approved hotel. With all countries removed from the red list, visitors are now asked to “follow the rules as if they had arrived from a non-red list country.”
Travelers who are currently undergoing hotel quarantine in the UK will be allowed to leave early. Enhanced testing measures will remain in place for all travelers, regardless of their place of origin.
All visitors must take a PCR or lateral flow test up to 48 hours before departure, along with an additional PCR test within two days of arrival. They must also self-isolate until they have received a negative PCR test result.
Sajid Javid added,
“Whilst we will maintain our temporary testing measures for international travel we will be removing all 11 countries from the travel red list effective from 4 am tomorrow morning.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said that the UK’s enhanced testing measures will come under review in the first week of January.
Schapps said on Twitter,
“As always, we keep all our travel measures under review and we may impose new restrictions should there be a need to do so to protect public health.”
Some in the industry have called for the removal of all travel restrictions.
Tim Alderslade, head of trade group Airlines UK, 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 travelers, which again put us completely at odds with the rest of Europe.”
Are you happy to see the UK’s red list scrapped? Were you affected by the red list in any way over the last three weeks? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Journalist – With 10 years of experience as a travel writer and aviation analyst, Luke has worked with industry-leaders including Skyscanner, KLM and HotelsCombined throughout his career. As a passionate traveler based across the Middle East and East Asia, Luke offers strong insights into the travel and aviation industry.