Britain will scrap tough Covid-19 quarantine requirements for 47 destinations including South Africa and Thailand on Monday and make it easier for people to arrive from countries including India and Turkey in the latest relaxation of the rules.
Britain’s tourism industry has essentially lost two full summers after travel restrictions imposed to contain the spread of Covid-19 deterred many people from going abroad.
Many countries with high infection levels were put on a red list, requiring arrivals to spend 10 days in a government provided quarantine hotel, while the need for a PCR test and other tests often cost more than the flight itself.
Airlines such as Ryanair and easyJet have said that the approach and the frequently changing restrictions have delayed any recovery in the sector, leaving the British industry lagging its European peers.
On Thursday, transport minister Grant Shapps said he would remove 47 destinations from the red list. Seven countries will remain, including Colombia, Ecuador, Panama and Venezuela.
He has also eased the rules for countries such as India, Turkey and Ghana, meaning that the inoculation status of arrivals will be recognised and fully vaccinated arrivals will only need to take a test on day 2 to check for Covid.
In a further change, passengers will be able to send a picture of their lateral flow test result to verify test accuracy once the requirement switches from the more expensive PCR test to lateral flow later this month.
Shapps said restoring people’s confidence in travel was key to rebuilding the economy. “With less restrictions and more people traveling, we can all continue to move safely forward together along our pathway to recovery.”
South Africa will officially be off the UK’s ‘red list’ as of 4:00 on October 11, according to a UK government website.
However it still states: “The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office advises against all but essential travel to the whole of South Africa based on the current assessment of Covid-19 risks.”
The site states that over 430,000 British tourists visited South Africa in 2019.
In a statement released on Thursday, after the news was made known, Western Cape Minister Of Finance And Economic Opportunities David Maynier said this is “great news” for the Western Cape.
“This decision brings an end to a baffling diplomatic shambles that risked the economic recovery of the tourism and hospitality sector in the Western Cape. The UK is a key source market for tourism in the Western Cape. In 2019, approximately 194,900 UK tourists visited the Western Cape, spending on average R24,200 per tourist.”
The first British Airways flight between London Heathrow and Cape Town International Airport is reportedly scheduled to resume from November 1, 2021.
Maynier thanked those who had worked to remove South Africa from the ‘red list’, adding: “The success of this initiative is a great example of how the public and private sector can work together to achieve common outcomes.”