UK government to allow direct flights from red list countries

UAE expected to be among 43 nations in trial scheme beginning on June 8

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Passengers from red list countries will be able to take direct flights to England after the UK government on Thursday announced new rules around travel to the country.

From June 8, British citizens and legal residents will be permitted to fly to dedicated terminals at London's Heathrow Airport or Birmingham Airport.

Arrivals will still need to provide proof of a recent negative Covid-19 test result and must stay in mandatory hotel quarantine for 11 nights, costing £1,750 ($2,468) a traveller.

Passenger flights to England from red list countries have been banned since the UK government revealed its traffic light system for international travel in February.

The move was made to reduce the risk of the spread of Covid-19 variants first identified in Brazil, India and South Africa.

Under the current system, passengers must stay at a quarantine hotel if they have travelled through a red list country in the previous two weeks.

About 43 nations, including the UAE, Oman and Pakistan, are on the UK's red list, meaning travellers must transit through a third country before going to Britain.

Travellers returning from countries on the amber list, which covers most of the world, must isolate for 10 days at home and take Covid-19 tests on the second and eighth days.

There are only 11 countries and territories on the green list, including Israel, Singapore and New Zealand.

Those hoping to visit England are required to fly through countries on the green or amber lists, raising the risk of infection for other airline passengers.

The UK government said the move covered all red list countries, and that authorities would help to separate passengers and ensure they were processed "safely and efficiently".

Authorities in the UAE are yet to comment on the move.

On Thursday, the British government confirmed it was adding Egypt and Bahrain to its travel red list and that Portugal would be downgraded from green to amber.

The changes come into effect at 4am on June 8.

UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the decision was made because of a rising positivity rate in Portugal and concerns over a new mutation of Covid-19.

Afghanistan, Costa Rica, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Trinidad and Tobago were the other countries added to the red list.

“The public has always known travel will be different this year and we must continue to take a cautious approach to reopening international travel in a way that protects public health and the vaccine roll-out," Mr Shapps said.