LONDON, United Kingdom – Britain on Thursday removed all remaining African countries from its so-called “red list” which required travellers to spend 11 nights in a Covid-19 quarantine hotel at a cost of £2,285 person.
Ministers said the tough Covid-19 quarantine requirements for 47 destinations would be scrapped at 4AM on Monday.
Only seven countries in the world will remain blacklisted – Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “With half-term and winter sun around the corner, we’re making it easier for families and loved ones to reunite by significantly cutting the number of destinations on the red list, thanks in part to the increased vaccination efforts around the globe.
“Restoring people’s confidence in travel is key to rebuilding our economy and levelling up this country. With less restrictions and more people travelling, we can all continue to move safely forward together along our pathway to recovery.”
Britain’s ambassador to Zimbabwe Melanie Robinson said: “This is great news for UK tourists and Zimbabweans in the diaspora planning trips to Zimbabwe. It makes travel easier between our two countries.”
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority corporate affairs chief Godfrey Koti added: “The classification had put Zimbabwe in a disadvantaged position since the United Kingdom is one of Zimbabwe’s major source tourism markets.
“The announcement that destination Zimbabwe will be removed from the red list is incredibly exciting and the sector is fully prepared to help travellers get back to this beautiful tourism destination.”
Britain had come under pressure, particularly from South Africa, which argued that the classification was not based on any science.
Shapps also announced that the UK would recognise vaccines for arrivals from a further 37 countries and territories including Brazil, Ghana, Hong Kong, India, Pakistan, South Africa and Turkey. Zimbabwe, which has so far exclusively administered vaccines from China, India and Russia, was excluded.
The decision means fully vaccinated people entering England from these locations will be exempt from quarantine, the pre-departure test and the day-eight post-arrival test.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Our robust border measures have helped protect the phenomenal progress of our vaccination programme, and it is because of this success both here and around the world that we can safely open up travel further and we can visit friends and family abroad.
“We’re now making it easier and cheaper for people to travel by allowing fully vaccinated travellers from non-red list countries to use lateral flow tests on day two of arrival, as long as they provide proof of use.”
No date has been set on when eligible fully-vaccinated arrivals will be able to use a lateral flow test for their day-two test, rather than the more expensive PCR version.
The British government said its “ambition” is for this to be in place “for people returning from half-term breaks by the end of the month”.
Travellers will be able to verify they have completed a lateral flow test by sending a photograph.
British Airways announced it will resume services and increase frequencies to a number of winter sun destinations being removed from the red list, such as Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa; Mexico City and Cancun, Mexico; Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The airline’s chief executive Sean Doyle said: “It finally feels like we are seeing light at the end of a very long tunnel.
“Britain will benefit from this significant reduction in red list countries and now it’s time to turn our attention to eradicating testing for fully-vaccinated travellers to ensure we don’t lose our place on the global stage.”
Charlie Cornish, boss of Manchester Airports Group – which owns Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports – said: “Removing so many countries from the red list gives people the most choice they have had since before the pandemic, which will help stimulate the recovery of the UK’s prized aviation sector.”
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: “It’s been a long time coming but at last we’re seeing the layers of complexity peeled away.”