The British government will remove all 11 countries from its COVID-19 travel red list from Wednesday because there is now community transmission of Omicron in Britain, Health Secretary Sajid Javid told parliament.
The new Omicron variant was first detected in southern Africa and Hong Kong. The British government added 11 African countries to its red list from late November, meaning that entry for flights from those nations was restricted to UK citizens or residents who then had to quarantine in a hotel.
“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,” Javid said.
“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 a.m. tomorrow morning.”
The 11 countries which will be removed from the list are Angola, Botswana, Eswantini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Britain will still require all inbound travellers to take either a PCR or a rapid lateral flow test a maximum of 48 hours before departure.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said these testing measures would be reviewed in the first week of January.
“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,” he said on Twitter.
Arrivals from the red list countries have had to pay thousands of pounds to stay in government-approved quarantine hotels. Many have taken to social media to complain about the costs and conditions of their stay, including posting pictures of unappetising-looking food.
A lack of available rooms had also left some people trapped abroad waiting for space to become available in the quarantine hotels.