Shortly after airlines ask government for help, UK removes all 11 countries from travel red list

Major British airlines wrote to the PM, Boris Johnson, on December 13, describing the new travel rules imposed by the government to combat the Omicron coronavirus variant as “haphazard and disproportionate”, as well as being disruptive to families and commerce alike over the Christmas period. The letter was signed by the chief executive officers of British Airways, easyJet EZJ.L, Ryanair RYA.I, Loganair, Virgin Atlantic and JET2.L, the managing director of TUI UK & Ireland, as well as trade body Airlines UK.

In the week previous, Heathrow’s CEO John Holland-Kaye called on the British government to reduce restrictions as soon as it was safe to do so, including allowing UK nationals arriving from red-list countries to isolate at home. In response, the British government announced that as of Wednesday December 15, all eleven countries on the COVID-19 travel red list – all southern African countries: Angola, Botswana, Eswantini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe – would be removed.

“Now that there is community transmission of Omicron in the UK and Omicron has spread so widely across the world, the travel red list is now less effective in slowing the incursion of Omicron from abroad,” said Health Secretary Sajid Javid (reported by Reuters news agency), adding that whilst the UK will maintain its temporary testing measures for international travel it will be removing all 11 countries from the travel red list.

Currently, the British government requires all inbound travellers to take either a PCR or a rapid lateral flow test a maximum of 48 hours before departure. UK’s Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said these testing measures would be reviewed in the first week of January. “As always, we keep all our travel measures under review and we may impose new restrictions should there be a need to do so to protect public health,” he said in a tweet.

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