The United Kingdom, UK, has taken all 11 countries off England’s travel red list. It will be made official tomorrow, Wednesday, the health secretary, Sajid Javid, has announced.
The decision means England will no longer require hotel quarantine for travellers from Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
However, testing measures — a pre-arrival negative test and then another PCR test after arrival — remain in place for all travellers.
The health secretary has set out in Parliament the rationale for ending the travel red list, saying that as the new variant is spreading in the UK, travel restrictions are “now less effective in slowing the incursion of Omicron from abroad”.
Travel rules are set by the four nations of the UK independently, but the other nations’ governments often follow proposals from Westminster.
Deputy PM Dominic Raab earlier said people in England will be able to spend Christmas in a way they could not last year because of Plan B restrictions
MPs are currently debating the new measures in the Commons, with a big Tory rebellion expected over Covid passes for some venues.
…in South Africa; Nigeria’s threat over ban
A top South African doctor says the country is mainly seeing “mild disease” and intensive care units are not overwhelmed.
Labour’s shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting, told the Commons sincere beliefs are held on all sides, but he hopes the debate on Plan B measures can be worthy of Parliament.
He criticised the comparison by one Tory MP of Covid passes to Nazi Germany’s policies, saying: “We are not living in the 1930s and the secretary of state and his team are not Nazis.”
Streeting says the health secretary has a responsibility to protect our NHS and calls the measures “a necessary response to the Omicron threat”.
But he says that confronting the challenges of this winter has been made much harder “because we went into the pandemic with record waiting lists, 100,000 unfilled vacancies in the NHS and shortages of care staff.
Health Minister seeks advice ‘hotel quarantine’
Sajid Javid has told MPs he is seeking “urgent advice” about people currently in quarantine hotels being permitted to leave early.
Labour MP Ben Bradshaw asks the health secretary if the government will now release people in isolation in quarantine hotels, given that all 11 African countries are to be removed from the red list.
Javid says: “I am told that the practice in the past has been requiring them to complete their quarantine period. However, I do understand the importance of that.
“I have asked for urgent advice about what this means and I hope to act very quickly on just that.”