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DAMAGE DONE

The UK is scrapping its “red list” of restricted travelers from Africa

Travelers at an airport in South Africa look at a list showing canceled flights to London.
Reuters/Sumaya Hisham
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  • Courtney Vinopal
By Courtney Vinopal

Breaking news reporter

Published

The UK government announced today (Dec. 14) that it’s scrapping its “red list,” which currently restricts travelers from African nations coming into England, at 4am local time on Dec. 15. The international travel restrictions are now less effective because the omicron variant “has spread so widely across the world,” said British health secretary Sajid Javid.

Britain was one of several countries that imposed restrictions on many travelers from Africa shortly after the omicron variant was first identified by South African scientists last month. African leaders described the bans as “discriminatory,” and even called them “travel apartheid.”

New rules should ease foreign travel to the UK

Travelers from countries including Botswana, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zimbabwe should be able to enter England more easily starting tomorrow (Dec. 15), following the UK’s decision to scrap its red list. Since Nov. 26, non-UK citizens or residents from countries on the red list have not been allowed to enter the country.

British citizens and residents traveling from the 11 African countries on the red list are currently required to take a covid-19 test two days before traveling to England and quarantine expensively in a hotel for 10 days upon arrival, even if they’re fully vaccinated. Travelers who don’t comply with the restrictions may face fines up to £10,000 ($13,226).

Mandatory hotel quarantines—costing thousands—are scrapped tomorrow at 4am, but basic testing requirements will remain in place. All travelers must take covid-19 tests before and after they arrive in England, and remain in isolation until they receive the results. Transportation secretary Grant Shapps said the government will keep travel measures under review,

Travel bans are seen as ineffective

Throughout the pandemic, travel bans enacted in response to the coronavirus have been largely ineffective, and that also seems to be the case with these most recent, hastily imposed restrictions.

The World Health Organization said today (Dec. 14) that omicron is set to become the dominant strain in the world, and is “is spreading at a rate we have not seen with any previous variant,” in spite of travel measures taken in many countries, mostly to the detriment of travelers from Africa.

The restrictions had also been criticized by the British travel industry, with some saying they don’t think scrapping the red list goes far enough. They want to see the UK remove all restrictions, including testing. Tim Alderslade, head of trade group Airlines UK, told BBC News that “if the red list isn’t necessary…then neither are the costly emergency testing and isolation measures imposed on even fully vaccinated travelers.”

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