From 17 May, international travel was given the official go-ahead in Britain by the Global Travel Taskforce, subject to a traffic light system.
Since then, the “red list” of highest-risk destinations has fluctuated, but it’s now set to stand at zero destinations after the latest government shake-up, announced on 28 October.
On 17 September, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced that from 4 October, the three traffic light lists would be scrapped, leaving just the red list and one other list of “rest of world” or ROW destinations, comprised of the merged green and amber lists.
The red list was dramatically slashed, with 47 countries removed, leaving just seven. From 4am on 1 November, the “red list” will remain in name only, as all nations have been removed and bumped up to the ROW list.
However, the red grading will still remain, with updates continuing every three weeks - if more variants of concern are identified, countries could potentially be shunted back down.
“We will keep the red list category 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,” tweeted the transport secretary, Grant Shapps.
Which countries are on the red list?
The government has mandated hotel quarantine for Britons returning from high-risk or “red list” countries to stop new coronavirus infections and variants of concern entering the UK.
According to transport secretary Grant Shapps, red list countries are “those which should not be visited except in the most extreme of circumstances”.
After the latest Department for Transport announcement on 28 October, as of 4am on Monday 1 November, the red list will be emptied out, with all countries now on the ROW list.
However, the red list will remain in theory; reviews to the lists will continue to be undertaken every three weeks.
What determines whether a country is high risk?
As the move to use quarantine hotels is primarily in response to new variants of concern of Covid-19, it’s likely that a country will be deemed “high risk” if one of the variants of concern has been identified and is prevalent there.
As well as the UK’s own Kent variant, named B.1.1.7, other mutations have been found in South Africa (1.351), Brazil (P.1) and India (B.1.617.2). This last, known as the Delta variant, is up to 60 per cent more transmissible than the Kent mutation and is already prevalent in the UK. The Beta variant has also been identified as a concern, with France previously put into its own special “amber plus” category in response to this mutation being detected there. The country was moved back to the amber list in the following travel review.
According to the second Global Travel Taskforce report, published on 9 April, the key factors in assessing a country’s risk factor are its rate of infection, the prevalence of variants of concern and the progress of its vaccination programme. Reliability of data and genomic sequencing capability are also taken into account.
Where do high risk travellers stay and how do they get there?
A number of hotels have been contracted for the mandatory quarantine for all red list arrivals. Bath Road, which runs parallel to the runway at London Heathrow airport, has been dubbed “Isolation Row”.
Travellers are privately “escorted” to their quarantine hotel upon arrival.
Fines of up to £10,000 apply to arrivals who fails to undergo the stipulated hotel quarantine, while people who misrepresent their travel history on the passenger locator forms face up to 10 years in prison.
Travellers must finance the quarantine themselves, at a cost of £2,285 per person for those travelling alone, which includes 10 days' (11 nights') room and board. Additional people in the same hotel room pay less. The second person pays only £1,430, with further discounts for children aged five-12: £325 each. It’s free for children under five.
How long is quarantine?
The current quarantine for all red list arrivals into the UK is 10 days and 11 nights.
When is the next update to the red list?
The next announcement is expected to take place on or around 18 November.