Calls to scrap hotel quarantine as UK is set to cut travel red list

Travel expert wants hotel quarantine abandoned amid calls for vaccinated passengers to be allowed to travel freely

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The UK government should go farther than slashing the number of countries on the red list and should scrap the system entirely, a travel industry expert has said.

New rules to make travel to England “easier and cheaper” came into force on Monday, removing the amber list and the need for several expensive PCR tests for passengers and their families.

The number of countries on the red list is tipped to be cut from 54 to nine, as early as Thursday, with destinations such as Brazil, Mexico and South Africa expected to be opened up to quarantine-free travel.

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency which led the Save Our Summer campaign, said the overhaul to the red list was "not before time" and should have happened months ago.

He predicted that there would be "very few countries left" on the list after the announcement and that Mexico was one of the more popular destinations likely to be opened up to British travellers.

More remote countries, such as Afghanistan, Haiti and Somalia will remain on the red list, with the “blanket measures on Africa and South America removed”.

But, he said, many of the regulations still in place were unnecessary given that the spread of dangerous variants appeared to be contained.

"There is no justification for having so many countries on the red list. There's no evidence of new variants and that Covid is out of control," he told The National.

Mr Charles backed calls to scrap the red list and hotel quarantine system, saying that it was no longer fit-for-purpose and said testing for double-vaccinated people should be greatly reduced.

It comes as the World Travel & Tourism Council predicted a "sluggish" recovery in the UK industry unless these restrictions were removed and said millions of jobs had already been lost globally.

I think for the fully-jabbed there should be no need for anything other than an antigen test, an NHS test should do
Paul Charles, travel analyst

"I think for the fully-jabbed there should be no need for anything other than an antigen test, an NHS test should do", Mr Charles said. PCR tests could then be taken if symptoms emerge, he said.

"Ireland had one of the toughest [hotel quarantine] policies and now even they are getting rid of it – it's relic of old Covid rules."

Meanwhile, coronavirus data analyst Tim White believes “up to 18” countries could remain on the red list.

He described reports that the list could be cut to just nine as “optimistic”.

Mexico “looks certain to be removed” but Thailand “may well stay red”, Mr White said on Twitter.

Under the UK government's new scheme, fully vaccinated arrivals who did not originate from a red list country will be asked to take just one lateral flow test on day two, compared with a more expensive PCR test.

Arrivals were previously asked to complete a pre-departure lateral flow test, take a day-eight post-arrival PCR test costing about £65 ($88), or self-isolate at home.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Monday the rule changes were "good news for families, businesses and the travel sector", but that protecting public health was the most important objective.

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, a trade body representing UK airlines, welcomed the decision.

"Things are moving in the right direction and the removal of these restrictions will make it easier and cheaper for people to travel.

"We've seen a good response to the announcement in terms of bookings and, given current trends, we would hope to see more countries come off the red list and further mutual recognition of vaccine status."

Updated: October 06, 2021, 4:09 PM