Forty-seven countries will be removed from the travel red list in the UK, it has been announced.
The changes come into force on Monday at 4am and mean countries such as South Africa and Thailand are among those which will be removed from the list.
Travellers arriving from those destinations will no longer need to spend 11 nights in a quarantine hotel at a cost of £2,285 for solo travellers.
There were previously 54 countries on the red list, and the changes mean that only seven will stay on it.
The seven destinations which will be left on it are Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru and Venezuela – the Department for Transport said.
What are the changes?
The changes will make it easier for more people to travel abroad to a larger number of countries. Passengers returning to England from these destinations will no longer be required to enter hotel quarantine.
The Government will also extend the inbound vaccinated arrivals system to a further 37 countries and territories across the globe including India, South Africa and Turkey, meaning eligible passengers arriving from rest of world countries only need to take a day two test in England.
And it said passengers will be able to send a picture of their lateral flow test as a minimum requirement to verify test result accuracy and keep prices down once day two tests switch to lateral flow later this month, followed by a free PCR test if positive.
The Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Schapps said on Twitter on Thursday: “From Monday I’ll be cutting 47 destinations from our red list – including South Africa, with just 7 countries and territories remaining - all others will be included in the “rest of world” category
“I’m also making changes so travellers visiting England have fewer entry requirements, by recognising those with fully-vax status from 37 new countries and territories including India, Turkey and Ghana, treating them the same as UK fully vax passengers.
“The measures announced today mark the next step as we continue to open up travel and provide stability for passengers and industry while remaining on track to keep travel open for good. “
Does it affect all of the UK?
Welsh health minister Eluned Morgan said her government has urged Mr Shapps to take a “more precautionary approach” to international travel but will keep her nation’s restrictions in line with England’s for reasons of practicality.
She said: “We are concerned about the cumulative impact of the risk being carried in relation to opening up travel particularly from higher risk countries.
“This includes the radical reduction in the number of red list countries and the suggestion the UK Government is contemplating considerably relaxing the rules around quarantine from red list countries and introducing the use of lateral flow tests for returning travellers.
“All of these measures, when taken together, considerably increase the risk of a new variant being introduced into Wales and the UK.”
Ulster and Holyrood have also mirrored the changes made by the UK Government.
Scottish transport minister Graeme Dey added though that the red list will be “carefully monitored” and Scotland “will not hesitate to reintroduce restrictions” to protect public health in the nation.
What changes were made previously?
It comes after changes were announced on Wednesday when the UK lifted its advice against non-essential travel to 32 countries and territories.
Bangladesh, Fiji, Gambia, Ghana and Malaysia were among the locations for which travel advice based on the risk of coronavirus was relaxed, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said.
The UK will stop advising Britons to avoid all but essential travel to non-red list countries on Covid-19 grounds except in “exceptional circumstances” such as if the local healthcare system is overwhelmed, the FCDO added.
This will make it easier for people visiting those locations to obtain travel insurance.
Before Wednesday’s changes, the FCDO advised against non-essential travel due to the virus to 117 countries and territories.
The FCDO said the change in policy follows the “improved public health in many countries” and the “decreased risk to British nationals” as a result of the vaccine rollout.
What has the industry said?
Airlines UK, the industry body representing UK-registered carriers, said: “We welcome the significant reduction of the Red list as another positive step towards normalising air travel and reopening our sector.
“This builds on recent changes that have seen travel to many more countries become easier and cheaper for passengers, progress we hope towards removing all test requirements for the fully vaccinated as soon as possible.
“However, it is disappointing for our customers to have no definitive clarity yet on when the lateral flow changes will be introduced.
“With the crucial October half-term just two weeks away we urgently need clarity so that passengers can plan ahead. This is the key booking period between now and Christmas, so time is of the essence.”
A Heathrow spokesperson said: “Now that we’ve got the protections of the vaccine, ministers need to prioritise the safe return of frictionless travel as soon as possible.
“Further progress has been made today by reducing the red list and extending vaccinated status recognition to more countries. Both moves will restore vital trade routes that will kick start a Global Britain.
“However, the missing piece to this is clarity on when cheaper lateral flow tests will be accepted, which is now critical in order to save the half term getaway for many.”
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