11 countries from UK’s travel red list will be removed by the government from 4am on Wednesday.
The countries on the list are Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The travel red list was reintroduced in late November after the Omicron variant emerged.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the Omicron variant had spread so widely. Since there is community transmission of Omicron in the UK and Omicron has spread so widely across the world, the UK travel restriction is now less effective in slowing the incursion of Omicron from abroad. He also added that they would maintain temporary testing measures for international travel.
All UK arrivals from red list countries must pay for and self-isolate in a pre-booked, government-approved hotel for 10 days.
However, with all 11 countries being removed from that list, it was confirmed that those currently in managed quarantine would be allowed to leave early and follow the regulations as if they had arrived from a non-red list country.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Stephen Barclay, told the House of Commons that anyone who tested positive would remain in isolation.
The point of putting countries on the travel red list was to act quickly to slow the spread of Omicron.
Now that the Omicron variant has spread in the community, the government doesn’t think putting people from a limited list of countries in hotels is useful.
It will be welcome news to people with plans to come to the UK from countries like South Africa and Nigeria or delay their return from those countries.
But it will be frustrating for those who did get caught up in the renewal of the travel red list, which only started about a fortnight ago.
The UK travel industry wants all restrictions slashed as businesses see testing measures to halt their recovery.
This will make travel companies, which generally benefit from a holiday booking rush in late December and early January, worried that it would hurt the business.
The move follows anger from African countries, with the UN depicting the restriction on non-UK residents entering England.
South African Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said the UK announcement had come just in time to allow families and friends to unite over the festive season.
Tim Alderslade, head of trade group Airlines UK, said emptying the travel red list makes complete sense. However, the government should also discard the remaining UK travel restrictions.
All arrivals, regardless of where they fly from, must take Covid tests within 48 hours of entering the UK and PCR tests within two days of their arrival.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps tweeted that these testing measures would be reviewed in the first week of January.