UPDATE 15 December: The government has confirmed that travellers already in quarantine hotels following travel from former red list countries will be released early if they have tested negative for Covid-19, but reports say many are still waiting for details of when and how this will happen.
The UK government has confirmed that it will remove all 11
countries from the travel red list from 0400 on 15 December, but current
testing rules will remain in place.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps announced the move on
Twitter, which will see the removal of the African nations that were added to
the red list starting at the end of November following the discovery of the
Omicron Covid-19 variant.
The change means all fully vaccinated travellers – not just
UK and Ireland citizens and residents – will be allowed to travel to the
country without needing to book and pay for hotel quarantine upon entering the UK.
Health secretary Sajid Javid told parliament he is waiting for advice
on whether those already in quarantine, who have paid thousands of pounds to
stay in a hotel, will be allowed to leave early.
Current testing requirements, which include pre-departure
PCR or lateral flow tests and a PCR test on day two, will remain in place.
Travellers are required to self-isolate on arrival until they receive a
negative test result.
Shapps said testing requirements will be reviewed in the first week of January.
The news has been welcomed by the travel industry,
with airline bosses and business travel figureheads having lobbied the government in
recent days to remove travel restrictions now that Omicron is freely transmitting
within the community in the UK.
However, many in the industry are still calling for the
removal of more stringent testing requirements and a return to cheaper lateral
flow tests after arrival, as was the case when Delta became the dominant
Clive Wratten, chief executive of the Business Travel Association, said: "We welcome the news that all countries have been removed from the UK's red list.
"However, this does not go nearly far enough to help the beleaguered travel industry. The onerous testing requirements are severely hampering business and leisure travel.
"The BTA urges the government to work with the industry to create effective plans for future variants and a tailored package of support as we remain the only sector operating under restrictions."