The UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced that 47 countries will be taken off the Covid red list, ending the requirement for travellers to hotel quarantine on arrival back in England.
All of Africa and Asia and most of south and central America will be removed from the red list on October 11, opening up the potential for winter sun holidays in popular destinations such as Mexico, South Africa, Thailand and Costa Rica.
The seven remaining countries on the red list are Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Panama, Haiti, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. All passengers arriving from England from those countries must still book and pay £2,285 for the mandatory 11-night quarantine in hotels supervised by private security guards, and take two Covid tests during their stay.
Further streamlining of the travel process will come into play later on in October, when day two PCR tests will be replaced by cheaper lateral flow tests. The government aims to have the new testing system in place by the start of the half term on October 23, but this is yet to be confirmed.
“It’s good that the Government has acted on ABTA’s and the industry’s calls by reducing the red list to seven countries. It is a sensible step forward in further opening up international travel,” said Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive of ABTA.
“Although we have a much-improved system, we now want to see the government put their plans into place to replace day 2 PCR tests with lateral flow in time for the October half term in England, which begins later this month, and we would urge the Devolved Administrations to also prioritise swift implementation. We also urge the Government to remove all testing for primary school age children, which would bring it in line with the approach it has for testing in schools.
“Specialist long-haul travel companies will also breathe a sigh of relief that the restrictions – which have stopped them trading and making any money – are being eased.
“Travel companies will need to check what the Foreign Office advice is for the countries that have come off the red list – it may be that the advice against travel changes straight away, or that there is a bit of a lag – as we saw with the Maldives recently – or that it remains in place due to ongoing COVID risk/there are other non-COVID related advisories. So it is really important Members continue to check that. ABTA Members can sign up for operational bulletins and refer to ABTA’s COVID-19 – FCDO travel advice status and UK inbound border entry rules guide.”
Steve Heapy, CEO of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays, said: “This marks a genuine reopening of international travel and is more great news for holidaymakers. Whether it is for October, half-term, Winter or Summer 22, bookings are up right across the board – more than trebling in some cases. The enormous demand, which has been pent-up for so long, means we are enjoying a strong booking period as customers respond to the assurance that the UK Government is finally giving them.
“We applaud the Government for the steps it is taking to reopen international travel properly. There is still a way to go and we will continue to call for travel to be made easier, in particular around testing, but we are definitely on the right track. Our programmes for this Winter and Summer 22 are shaping up to be very busy indeed, meaning we are looking ahead with real confidence.”
But for Danny Callaghan, CEO of the Latin American Travel Association (lata.travel), it’s not all good news.
“We are pleased to see that a number of Latin American countries have finally been removed from the red list which will be a huge relief to our travel partners, many of whom are Latin American specialists and have not been able to trade at all for the last 18 months,” he said.
“However, it beggars belief that all the remaining seven countries on the red list are in, or off the coast of, Latin America. Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Panama are all way ahead of other countries that have come off the list in terms of case rates, vaccination and testing regimes. I am at an utter loss to understand how this continued poor treatment of Latin American countries can be justified.
“I would still like to see clarity from the UK government on the criteria they use to make these decisions, particularly for the seven destinations left on the red list.”