England set to remove final countries from Covid travel ‘red list’

At least 12 more countries’ vaccines also expected to be recognised in significant opening up of borders

All remaining destinations on the UK’s travel “red list” will be removed and vaccines from dozens more countries are to be recognised, ministers have announced in a significant opening up of borders.

The move means no passengers will have to quarantine in a hotel at a cost of more than £2,000 for 11 nights once the change comes into effect from 4am on Monday 1 November.

However, the red list system will not be abandoned entirely, and countries may be added again in future if concerning new variants emerge. The health secretary, Sajid Javid, said it remained “vital in protecting our borders” and that a small number of quarantine hotel rooms are being kept on standby. “We … will not hesitate to take swift action by adding countries to the red list if the risk increases again,” he said.

The red list was slimmed down significantly at the last review, and only included South and Central American countries. The final ones to be removed are Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Venezuela.

“Delta is now the dominant variant in most countries around the world,” the Department for Transport said. “This means the risk of known variants entering the UK has reduced.” It added ministers would decide whether any countries needed to be re-added in three weeks.Ministers are also preparing to recognise vaccines administered in 30 more countries, including Peru and Uganda, meaning travellers from those countries can avoid staying at home for up to 10 days if fully inoculated with an approved jab.

Labour said the protection of Britain’s border had been “shambolic” and removing all countries from the red list “could post risks to our future safety”. The shadow transport secretary, Jim McMahon, once again urged the government to “be open and honest with the public” by publishing full country-by-country data on Covid to reassure people “these decisions are being taken based on science, not politics”.

It came as the European Commission announced that UK certificates will be recognised as being equivalent in status to the bloc’s own digital Covid certificate from Friday.

While many EU member states have already unilaterally recognised the NHS Covid pass, the long-awaited decision ensures it will be automatically accepted across Europe.

Travellers to countries such as the Netherlands will no longer have to take daily Covid tests to enter bars, restaurants and museums.

Didier Reynders, the EU commissioner for justice, said: “Safer travel is a reality thanks to the EU digital Covid certificate, which is now the leading global standard: 45 countries in four continents are connected to the system and more will follow in the coming weeks and months. We are open to other countries to join our system.”

The commission took three months to assess the UK’s application for equivalence status, which will cover passes issued in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Switzerland, Ukraine, Turkey and North Macedonia all secured the status within a period of five to eight weeks after applying.

Vaccination certificates issued in Armenia will also be recognised from Friday, the commission said.

The tie-up will fold data held by the UK’s NHS app into the EU digital Covid certificate, allowing other countries to access users’ vaccine status and test results at the border.

The lack of equivalence status between the NHS app and the EU system has been a thorn in the side of British tourists seeking to visit a range of European destinations and for those people who were vaccinated in the UK but who live abroad.

The problem has become particularly acute as an increasing number of EU governments have started requiring a Covid pass for entrance to events or hospitality venues.

Since 2 August, visitors from the EU who have been fully vaccinated with a single EMA-approved vaccine have not been obliged to quarantine on entry to the UK.

Contributors

Aubrey Allegretti, and Daniel Boffey in Brussels

The GuardianTramp

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