The travel industry breathed a collective sigh of relief at news of the removal of the last remaining countries from the red list yesterday.
But Transport Secretary Grant Shapps warned that the list hasn’t been ditched and countries could find themselves back on it.
From 4am on Monday 1 November, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama will be removed from the list.
This means that no-one travelling to the UK will have to quarantine in a hotel – for the time being.
Fully vaccinated arrivals will only need to take a Lateral Flow Test by their second day in the UK.
Those who don’t have the required proof of vaccination will need to test before travel, self-isolate for up to 10 day and take two PCR tests after arrival, but from Monday the UK will recognise vaccines administered in 30 more countries.
This means people vaccinated in more than 135 countries will be able to enter the UK without the need to self-isolate from 1 November.
However, Mr Shapps warned that countries could be placed back on the red list in future.
He said: “We will keep the red list in place as a precautionary measure to protect public health and are prepared to add countries and territories back if needed, as the UK’s first line of defence.”
While welcoming the removal of all countries from the red list – especially the Dominican Republic, Barrhead Travel President Jacqueline Dobson called for more clarity.
“It is not enough for the UK Government to confirm the Red List’s precautionary status.
“The industry must know exactly when and how this could be deployed in the immediate future to avoid unnecessary disruption and allow businesses to suitably plan for recovery,” she said.
“Engagement must be ongoing and transparent with the industry.”
The Government has so far not made public its criteria for placing countries on the red list, and many in the industry believed there was no justification for keeping the remaining seven on the list for so long.
Danny Callaghan, the CEO of the Latin American Travel Association, welcomed the removal of the remaining Latin American countries, saying: “Latin American counties have excellent vaccination programmes and recognition of this is long overdue.
“There has been extensive engagement with the UK Government to get to where we are, and I’d particularly like to mention the efforts of Natalia Royo, Panamanian Ambassador to the UK, who has taken the lead on bringing the the UK and Latin American health departments together to address the outstanding concerns of the UK.
“After many challenging months, LATA members will be pleased that they can look at taking their clients to this amazing part of the world once again. This is a very well-needed boost for the Latin American travel sector.”
ABTA’s Director of Communications Graeme Buck said: “ABTA has been calling for the Government to keep the red list under review and act swiftly to remove countries when there is a reduced threat of COVID-19, so it’s great to see the Government responding to these calls today.
Gary Lewis, CEO of The Travel Network Group, said: “The travel industry will be breathing a sigh of relief now costly hotel quarantine is being scrapped for those returning from red list countries.
“It is encouraging to see further progress being made to remove barriers to free travel after 19 months of restrictions.
“We hope that this move helps to build customer confidence and reassure people that they can book trips and travel without the threat of costly or disruptive changes to their plans.”