Travel rules: the chaotic history of the UK red list

Seventeen days after the authorities cancelled all flights from South Africa to the UK and revived the red list, the course of has gone into reverse once more.

The belated acknowledgement of the pointlessness of resort quarantine to guard towards a variant that’s already engulfing the UK is the newest U-turn in the saga of the UK’s continually shifting insurance policies on resort quarantine and flight bans.

That is the story of a weird sequence of selections by ministers.

When did the red list begin?

The thought of suppressing journey from areas considered excessive threat goes again virtually a 12 months – to 23 December 2020.

On that day the UK government announced: “Passengers travelling from South Africa into England from 9am Thursday 24 December is not going to be permitted to enter, reflecting elevated threat from new pressure of coronavirus.

“That is completely different to the UK variant, that means a journey ban is crucial to stop additional home an infection.”

Sound acquainted? Ever since, the presence of new variants has been used to justify tight restrictions.

So did arrivals from South Africa go into resort quarantine?

No, as a result of resort quarantine took moderately longer to implement in the UK than in Australia, the place it was imposed in a single day. Initially arrivals have been “required to self-isolate for 10 days together with their family”.

Solely folks with the proper of residence in the UK have been allowed to enter.

What occurred subsequent?

Red list-style restrictions have been regularly prolonged: to Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Eswatini, Zambia, Malawi, Lesotho, Mozambique and Angola. That is precisely the identical as the November 2021 southern Africa journey ban – with the addition of the pretty Indian Ocean islands of the Seychelles and Mauritius.

At the identical time, from 5 January to 16 Might, all worldwide leisure journey was banned. For many individuals, the quickly extending list of high-risk international locations was an irrelevance. The federal government mentioned: “You should keep at house and never journey overseas until it’s for a permitted exempt cause.”

At 4am on 15 January, pre-departure testing started for all arrivals to the UK.

The time period “red list” was coined for high-risk nations with particularly onerous restrictions, and by early February 2020 it had been prolonged to 33 international locations – together with the UAE.

When did resort quarantine start?

Over to Matt Hancock. On 9 February the then-health secretary introduced “new measures to maintain this nation protected from coronavirus”.

He mentioned: “We should strengthen our defences but additional.” He announced arrivals from red list countries must pay up £1,750 for “quarantine in an assigned hotel room for 10 days from the time of arrival”.

When the laws have been revealed it turned clear he meant 11 nights, successfully extending resort quarantine (or the Managed Quarantine Service as it’s formally recognized) for red list passengers to 12 days.

“Passengers will solely be capable to enter the UK by a small quantity of ports that presently account for the overwhelming majority of passenger arrivals,” Mr Hancock mentioned.

“Once they arrive, they’ll be escorted to a chosen resort, which can be closed to visitors who aren’t quarantining, for 10 days or for longer in the event that they check optimistic for Covid-19 throughout their keep.

“Folks might want to stay of their rooms, and of course is not going to be allowed to combine with different visitors. There can be seen safety in place to make sure compliance.

“Anybody who lies on a passenger locator type, and tries to hide that they’ve been in a rustic on our red list in the 10 days earlier than arrival right here, will face a jail sentence of as much as 10 years.”

Initially 16 inns in England have been contracted for 4,600 rooms. The Scottish authorities additionally contracted inns close to Edinburgh airport.

At the identical time, Mr Hancock introduced PCR checks must be taken on days two and eight.

What was the response?

Muted, as a result of worldwide journey was nonetheless banned for the overwhelming majority of folks. Nevertheless, some individuals who needed to journey for pressing household causes confronted excessive prices and sad circumstances on “Isolation Row” – a string of inns at Heathrow.

As the “delta variant” unfold, travellers from India have been allowed virtually every week to get again to the UK earlier than resort quarantine took impact.

Then got here summer season…

…and the celebrated “visitors lights”. All summer season lengthy international locations have been shuttled between inexperienced, amber and red lists – with “amber plus” making a cameo look for a pair of weeks requiring arrivals from France to self-isolate (although not in inns).

On 12 August the value of resort quarantine rose to a most of £2,285 per particular person.

Generally the imposition of red list standing had surprising penalties: after Montenegro was added in August 2021, an easyJet flight touched down simply two minutes earlier than the 4am deadline.

The red list reached a peak of 54 international locations, over 1 / 4 of the world’s nations.

What about opening up?

By the autumn, restrictions have been eased. “Now’s the time for us to get our nation transferring as soon as once more,” mentioned the transport secretary, Grant Shapps on 4 October, eradicating the want for a pre-departure check for totally vaccinated travellers to the UK.

He mentioned the want for a post-arrival PCR check can be eased later in October.

Per week later, the largest red list change passed off when 47 of the 55 nations were removed. Solely Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru and Venezuela remained on the list, apparently as a result of of issues about the lambda and mu variants.

The seven remaining countries were removed on 1 November. Mr Shapps mentioned: “That is one other step in the proper route for worldwide journey with extra excellent news at present for passengers, companies and the journey sector. We’re persevering with to make nice progress as we get better from the pandemic and at present is one other instance of how far now we have come.”

However the authorities mentioned: “A quantity of resort rooms stay on standby ought to the authorities have to rapidly reply to an elevated threat from one other nation or territory and reintroduce Managed Quarantine Service for red list passengers.”

How lengthy did it final?

Lower than 4 weeks. On 25 November, the red list was introduced again as a result of of fears of what we now know as the omicron variant of coronavirus. Flights from South Africa have been cancelled and anybody who had been in a single of six (now 11) African nations was required to enter resort quarantine.

“We’re taking these precautionary measures to guard public well being and the progress we’ve made to this point by our profitable vaccination programme,” the authorities mentioned.

As of 30 November, all arrivals to the UK from all over the place besides Eire are required to self-isolate till a adverse PCR check result’s obtained.

On 6 December Nigeria was added to the red list – however the following day the well being secretary, Sajid Javid, mentioned all journey restrictions must be eliminated “very quickly”.

Per week later, he mentioned he wished the guidelines eliminated “rapidly”, stating: “Provided that we already know that the omicron variant is quick turning into the dominant variant in our capital metropolis, spreading quickly round the nation, the justification for having the guidelines is minimised.”

On 14 December, Mr Javid introduced the red list can be emptied once more at 4am on 15 December. All different journey restrictions will keep in place.

Julia Lo Bue-Stated, chief government of the Benefit Travel Partnership, mentioned: “Chaotic adjustments in authorities measures in the direction of worldwide journey are creating an avalanche of cancellations, drop in confidence and risking jobs and livelihoods of tens of millions employed in the journey trade.”

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