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Final seven countries removed from England’s Covid travel ‘red list’

The last seven countries have been removed from England’s travel “red list” in line with a relaxation of pandemic-induced restrictions across the world.

Passengers arriving in England from Colombia, Peru, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Venezuela and Ecuador from Monday at 4am will no longer face 10 days in government-run hotel quarantine, effectively putting the system on ice, transport secretary Grant Shapps tweeted.

Earlier this month the red list was slashed from 54 countries to the seven, easing restrictions on arrivals from popular holiday destinations such as South Africa and Thailand.

The cost of the Covid quarantine in a government-designated hotel, most of which are near airports, is about £2,200 per person.

Shapps added that the system would be kept in place “as a precautionary measure to protect public health and are prepared to add countries and territories back if needed, as the UK’s first line of defence”.

An additional 30 countries’ vaccinations would also be added to the list of jabs approved for those entering the UK, he said, taking the total to more than 135.

“We are delighted that the UK has recognised the progress we have made in tackling Covid and we can’t wait to welcome UK visitors to Panama. Our doors are wide open”, said Ivan Eskildsen, Panama’s tourism minister.

Travel from the UK to the EU also got easier from Thursday as the European Commission agreed to accept the NHS Covid-19 app across the bloc as proof of vaccination.

In many countries, including France, Belgium and the Netherlands, a QR code indicating you have been vaccinated is necessary to get into bars, restaurants and public buildings and events. Some countries in the bloc had already accepted the NHS app but now all 27 members will.

Australia, one of the first countries to run hotel quarantines, announced earlier this month that it would abandon the system, while the US said it would open its borders to travellers from 33 previously blocked countries, including the EU and UK.

Governments are instead relying on increasing vaccination rates in order to bolster the struggling travel industry, which has been shut down for much of the pandemic.

Tim Alderslade, the chief executive of lobby group Airlines UK, said the “welcome progress should provide further reassurance to passengers” ahead of the busy Christmas and New Year season.

“We now need to go further by removing testing altogether for the fully vaccinated, and committing to reviewing all restrictions by the end of the year,” he said.

Paul Charles, an adviser to travel organisations, said: “All the statistics clearly show that there is no need for blanket measures that stop whole countries coming in. The government has finally learnt that you base risk on individual profiles rather than country profiles.”

The changes are the latest phase of a steady rollback of the stringent restrictions on international travel put in place earlier this year.

Last month ministers simplified the traffic travel light system and scrapped pre-departure tests for people who have had two Covid-19 vaccinations.

According to NHS Test and Trace reports, between September 23 and 29 the number of people starting their quarantine in a hotel decreased 30 per cent to 3,133. More than 203,000 people have quarantined in a hotel since the system was introduced in February.

Any vaccinated passengers arriving in England from non-red list countries must now only take a test on or before the second day after their arrival, with cheaper lateral flow tests now accepted.

Anyone who has not been fully jabbed still faces significant restrictions, including a pre-departure test and self-isolation at home for 10 days after their arrival, with the option of taking a test for early release on day five.

The devolved nations, which have autonomy over public health, have in the past largely followed England’s lead on the travel list.

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