Covid: England's travel red list cut to just seven countries

10 mins read

Departure gates at airport

The red list was slashed from 54 to seven. (Image: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The red list was slashed from 54 to seven last night, with previously off-limits destinations such as South Africa, Mexico and Brazil back in the fold from Monday. The only destinations still on the red list are Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.

The change is set to spark a holiday frenzy, as families race to snap up autumn and winter deals.

Many had pre-empted the announcement by bagging bargain offers on adventures in the Canary Islands, Costa Blanca, Majorca and the Antalya province of Turkey.

Other popular destinations being snapped up by sun-starved Britons include the Algarve, Crete and Cape Verde, off the western coast of Africa.

Chris Weber, from holiday comparison and deals website, said: “There remains an optimism about getting away in the remaining few months of the year, with winter approaching.

“Destinations like Majorca are proving very popular for last-minute October getaways, while Tenerife and Lanzarote are leading the way for winter sun.

“Close to six in 10 searches are still for travel in 2021, and November saw the biggest increase in search share.”

October accounts for more than a third of the site’s searches, while queries for November have increased by more than 50 per cent on last week.

Hays Travel, Britain’s biggest independent travel agent, said: “We are certainly seeing a huge demand for October 2021 departures.

“May 2022 is our next best-selling departure date and people are booking for Spain, Turkey and Greece as well as long-haul holidays in the Maldives, USA and Caribbean.”

Spanish beach

The change is set to spark a holiday frenzy. (Image: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Emma Coulthurst, from holiday price comparison site TravelSupermarket, said: “Bookings via our website are at nearly double the level they were before the dismantling of the traffic light system and the reduction in testing requirements. Some 40 per cent of all bookings in the last week are for October trips. People are really keen to get away.”

Earlier this week, the Foreign Office removed 32 countries and territories to which officials had previously advised against all but essential travel.

They included Bangladesh, Gambia, Ghana and Malaysia.

Nevertheless, red list countries remain, and travellers returning from those states are subject to a 10-day stay in a quarantine hotel, at a cost of up to £2,285 per adult. On Monday, the travel industry breathed a sigh of relief as restrictions were finally relaxed.

The previous green and amber lists were merged and pre-departure tests were scrapped for return to England.

However, there is no immediate plan to replace costly day two PCR Covid tests with cheaper lateral flow tests, despite a huge clamour by the beleaguered travel sector.

Responding to this, a Heathrow spokesman said: “Ministers need to prioritise the safe return of frictionless travel as soon as possible. Further progress has been made by reducing the red list and extending vaccinated status recognition to more countries.

“However, the missing piece to this is clarity on when cheaper lateral flow tests will be accepted, which is now critical in order to save half-term trips for many.”

England still has one of the strictest travel policies in Europe despite the changes.

Individual border rules remain a concern too, as some state that anyone over the age of one year must have received a recent negative PCR test result, while others ban unvaccinated over-12s outright.

In the United States, bars, restaurants, cinemas, gyms and beauty parlours in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco will require proof of a two Covid jabs from next month.

Paul Charles, chief executive of The PC Agency travel consultancy, said: “Every time the Government peels back layer upon layer of restrictions, confidence returns.

“I’d expect booking demand to increase further as the red list is cut down to just a few countries.

“As Ireland and Australia have shown, there’s no need for a red list or quarantine as there have been no new variants since May.”

Sean Doyle, British Airways CEO, 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.

“Once we have a firm date for the reopening of US borders in November, we look forward to reconnecting our two countries, reigniting transatlantic businesses and reuniting families who were separated for nearly two years.”


We are getting out of the Covid straitjacket, says Nigel Thompson, Daily Express Travel Editor

To paraphrase a film about a reasonably popular globetrotting spy that’s currently doing the rounds…Now, Time To Fly!

With Transport Secretary Grant Shapps last night opening up 47 destinations to British travellers in time for half-term, it removes the spectre of the hideously expensive red list airport quarantines on return to the UK.

A £2,285-a-head bill for a 10-day incarceration on Heathrow’s Bath Road? A family of four would need a decent roulette win at the Casino Royale to cover that. And what a Bond-worthy list of glamorous international hot-spots now await – never mind a double “0”, what a great time to be double jabbed!

In what is hopefully the last major Government travel red list shuffle, from Mexico to South Africa and Cuba to Thailand (wasn’t expected, a nice bonus) via Brazil and Tunisia, the winter sun holiday world is now enough.

Even better, there are some Jaws-dropping bargains out there to save a Money penny or two. How about a four-star week on all-inclusive in the Riviera Maya for £843 per person? Dial M for Mexico right now!

It’s been an absolutely hideous 19 months for UK holidaymakers and the near-pulverised British travel industry, but it does seem at long last we are getting out of the Covid straitjacket and, with this latest news of even more getaway freedom, there’s a quantum of solace for everyone, including those who simply want to see family who are abroad.

But we are not quite out of the pandemic woods yet, so let’s follow the coronavirus rules on planes, trains and ferries so we don’t import any fast-spreading variants and we see the sky fall in on us again.

Ready to use your licence to chill on a sun lounger? Dreaming of a golden, eye-popping tropical sunset? Just head to the airport check-in desks and form an orderly, but very happy Q.

Yes, it really is time to forget that odd job that needs doing around the house and start booking a much-needed winter sun getaway in some of our favourite long-haul destinations – with of course the wonders of the USA due to open up next month too.

Enough of the Man With The Golden Pun – this is fantastic news, so be savvy, opt for a package holiday with ATOL protection and always take out suitable travel insurance as soon as you’ve booked.

Safe travels wherever you go.

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