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The government has dramatically slashed the travel red list, removing 47 countries including a host of popular holiday destinations such as South Africa, Brazil and Mexico.
People arriving from those destinations will no longer need to spend 11 nights in a quarantine hotel at a cost of £2,285 for solo travellers.
Only seven countries are staying on the list: Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the moves announced on Thursday afternoon, which come into effect at 4am on Monday, were a “major step forward” for the UK travel industry and travellers.
Mr Shapps said: “With half-term and winter sun around the corner, we're making it easier for families and loved ones to reunite by significantly cutting the number of destinations on the red list, thanks in part to the increased vaccination efforts around the globe.
“Restoring people's confidence in travel is key to rebuilding our economy and levelling up this country. With less restrictions and more people travelling, we can all continue to move safely forward together along our pathway to recovery.”
Mr Shapps also announced that the Government would recognise vaccines for arrivals from a further 37 countries and territories including Brazil, Ghana, Hong Kong, India, Pakistan, South Africa and Turkey.
The decision means fully vaccinated people entering England from these locations will be exempt from quarantine, the pre-departure test and the day-eight post-arrival test.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Our robust border measures have helped protect the phenomenal progress of our vaccination programme, and it is because of this success both here and around the world that we can safely open up travel further and we can visit friends and family abroad.
“We’re now making it easier and cheaper for people to travel by allowing fully vaccinated travellers from non-red list countries to use lateral flow tests on day two of arrival, as long as they provide proof of use.”
No date has been set on when eligible fully-vaccinated arrivals will be able to use a lateral flow test for their day-two test, rather than the more expensive PCR version.
The Government said its “ambition” is for this to be in place “for people returning from half-term breaks by the end of the month”.
UPDATE: From Monday (11th Oct) 📅 I’ll be cutting 47 destinations from our red list – including South Africa, with just 7 countries and territories remaining ⚠️ - all others will be included in the “rest of world” category 🌐 [1/3]
— Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) October 7, 2021
Travellers will be able to verify they have completed a lateral flow test by sending a photograph.
The red list announcement goes beyond the predictions of travel experts who reckoned dozens of countries would be removed from the red list.
There were 54 countries on the red list, which included all of those in mainland South America and southern and eastern Africa.
The devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland set their own travel rules but have recently mirrored announcements made in Westminster.
The news has been welcomed by the travel industry.
British Airways announced it will resume services and increase frequencies to a number of winter sun destinations being removed from the red list, such as Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa; Mexico City and Cancun, Mexico; Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The airline’s chief executive Sean Doyle said: “It finally feels like we are seeing light at the end of a very long tunnel.
“Britain will benefit from this significant reduction in red list countries and now it's time to turn our attention to eradicating testing for fully-vaccinated travellers to ensure we don’t lose our place on the global stage.”
A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said: “The considerable reduction in the red list and recognition of many more countries’ vaccination status is another positive step towards the UK’s recovery from the pandemic and a boost to international travel.
“We are ready to welcome fully vaccinated arrivals from India, South Africa, and Hong Kong to the UK. However, to ensure the full economic benefits are realised and that Britain’s global ambitions are met, all testing for fully vaccinated travellers from low risk destinations must be removed, bringing us into line with Europe and the US.”
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: “It’s been a long time coming but at last we’re seeing the layers of complexity peeled away.”