The Department for Transport and the Department of Health and Social Care of the UK have recently agreed on emptying the list of red countries.

The UK’s travel red list contained several African countries banned due to the spread of the Omicron variant, which was first discovered in South Africa and Botswana near November 22nd, 2021.

Preventively, the UK government decided to restrict travel from South Africa, Botswana, and surrounding countries of Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and Eswatini from November 28th, 2021, even though they had no registered Omicron infections at the time. 

Later, the British authorities added Mozambique, Angola, Malawi, and Zambia to the travel red list under the promise of revising the decision in three weeks. The time has finally come and all countries were removed from the travel red list. 

Still, the British authorities warn that the list of red countries can be modified at any time if they find it necessary. 

What does being on the travel red list imply?

The travel red list has stricter rules for traveling and entering the UK (particularly England). 

People coming from red countries have to take a COVID-19 diagnostic test up to 2 days before traveling to the UK (except for children under 11 years old), fill in a passenger locator form 48 hours before arriving in the UK, and book a quarantine hotel package with two COVID-19 tests to take on day 2 and day 8 or a 10-day long self-isolation period.

These rules apply to everyone regardless of their vaccination status. There is no way to skip these requirements or to shorten the travel quarantine. Furthermore, the travel quarantine is mandatory for the traveler and all the people coming with him or her (friends and family, including children). Only children below 4 years old are exempt from taking the diagnostic COVID-19 test on day 2 and day 8 of the self-isolation period (but not from the quarantine itself).

Children aged 12 to 17 must take a COVID-19 diagnostic test 48 hours before traveling to England, too.

Inconveniences due to these requirements did not only affect southern African citizens who needed to travel to the United Kingdom but also affected nationals of other countries who had a layover in one of the 11 banned countries. 

Usually, the UK authorities do not make exemptions for people who have a transit stop in a red list country if:

  • They pass border control at the airport during their transit stop (only for air passengers).
  • They or other passengers disembark and then re-board the ship, or if new travelers board the ship during that stop (only for ship passengers).
  • They get off the train, even if it’s simply for switching trains (train passengers). 
  • They drive through a territory on the red list, even if they don’t stop on it (people traveling in private vehicles).

People who fail to comply with the UK’s travel red list’s rules can be fined or delayed. Entry to British territory can be denied to them. 

Fortunately, now that no countries are on the UK’s travel red list, less strict norms will apply to travelers —at least until the list is updated. 

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