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COVID-19: What is the Latest on the Red List Countries?

We have come a long way since the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic in May 2020, and it appears that international travel from the UK may be permitted in summer 2021, albeit limited. There is a still great deal of uncertainty, however, with some ministers actively discouraging members of the public from booking international travel. And according to travel expert Simon Calder, writing in the Independent, a cross-party group of MPs and peers are urging the government to keep in place a ban on international travel through the coming summer period. He writes that the All-Party Parliamentary Group is warning of a real risk of a “deadly third wave and further lockdowns” if travel overseas is relaxed. The group’s chair, Layla Moran , has expressed her concerns that relaxing the rules could pile pressure on our border controls; “It is staggering that the government is even contemplating encouraging overseas holidays when airports are already struggling to keep the virus and new variants at bay”. In this article, we will take a look at the latest on the UK’s ‘red list’ countries and what may happen in summer 2021.

Which Countries Are Currently On The Red List?

Countries labelled as ‘red’ by the British government are those for which it prohibits travellers to enter the UK. The list is constantly evolving based on the latest assessment of COVID-19 cases worldwide. Most of the most notable additions to the UK’s red list is India due to the recent explosion of cases, hospitalisations, and, unfortunately, fatalities as a result of the virus.

The rules state travellers arriving at a UK border from or who have travelled through a red-listed country in the ten days before arrival will be stopped from entering the UK. British or Irish nationals and those with UK residence rights can pass through border control, but they must then quarantine in a government-approved hotel for a period of ten days.

The current list (as of 3rd May 2021) contains the following countries:

Angola, Argentina, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Burundi, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Eswatini, Ethiopia, French Guiana, Guyana, India, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, Suriname, Tanzania, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Uruguay, Venezuela, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

The most recent changes to the red list include:

  • India, which was added on 23rd April
  • Bangladesh, Kenya, Pakistan and the Philippines were added on 9th April
  • Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores) and Mauritius were removed on 19th March
  • Ethiopia, Oman, Qatar and Somalia were added Friday 19th March
  • Burundi, Rwanda and United Arab Emirates (UAE) were added on 29th January 2021

What Are The Current Quarantine Rules?

A new set of quarantine rules were published on 11th May 2021, and these were updated on 22nd April 2021. All travellers are required to have a COVID-19 test and ensure they have a negative result during the three days before they travel to the UK. Travellers who are required to quarantine must:

  • isolate for a period of ten days (the day of arrival is classed as ‘day 0’ and hence does not count towards the period of ten days)
  • take a COVID-19 test on day 2 and 8 of quarantining (these must be booked and paid for before travelling – this is referred to as a ‘travel test package’)
  • If arriving from a red list country and you are a British or Irish national or a person with UK residency, you will need to book a managed quarantine hotel where you will quarantine before you travel. The guidance states, “Your quarantine package will include your managed quarantine hotel, quarantine transport and your travel test package for COVID-19 tests on day two and day 8 of quarantine. You can only book your managed quarantine hotel within a 14-day window before arrival. You cannot book it any further in advance”.

Will Travel From The UK Be Allowed This Summer?

Despite the protestations of scientists and the All-Party Parliamentary Group, due to the enormous pressure on the government, it does look likely that at least some international holidays will be permitted this summer. The government was supposed to be publishing details of how it is currently grading countries using its new traffic light system on 1st May 2021, but this did not happen. A spokesperson for the DoT has stated, “The Government has not missed a deadline. We have always said we will confirm by early May if international travel can resume on 17th May and which countries will fall into which list. This will determine the requirements for travel for passengers”.

The latest news suggests that this information will be released within days, and countries on the green list will likely include (based on current COVID-19 stats) Jamaica, Barbados, Grenada, Iceland, Malta, Finland, Israel, Portugal and Gibraltar.

Final Words

The million-dollar question in the minds of hundreds of thousands of Brits at the moment is, ‘should I book a holiday abroad’? Currently, holidays overseas are illegal, and restrictions will need to be lifted to permit travel. If you do book, look carefully at the refund policies in place for the company you are using. Package holidays are likely to offer a great level of protection; as Simon Calder says, “with a proper package holiday – flights and accommodation booked in a single transaction – your money is not at risk”. Given the government’s latest advice on the likely green listed countries is imminent (or it maybe out when you read this article), this will provide the best steer as to whether travel is likely to be allowed and where to. But remember, there are no certainties, and even if you choose to book in a country on the green traffic light list, future events may conspire to put a halt to your plans.


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