The UK government is removing all 11 countries currently on its red list from 4am local time on December 15, 2021.
The news was announced by UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps on December 14, 2021 and comes just over two weeks after the first African countries were added to the list following the emergence of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
The 11 countries currently on the red list are: Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
TRAVEL UPDATE— Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) December 14, 2021
From 4am on Weds 15 Dec, ALL 11 countries will be removed from England’s travel red list #Internationaltravel (1/3)
The scrapping of the red list will likely come too late for many people to rearrange Christmas travel, however. Airlines have warned over the last couple of weeks that restrictions due to the Omicron variant could impact bookings and customer sentiment over December and January, which are key booking times for the travel industry.
As a result of the Omicron variant, the UK has increased testing requirements for all incoming travelers, even those who are fully vaccinated.
The current testing measures remain in place and will only be reviewed in the first week of January, Shapps added on December 14.
The UK had placed several African countries on the red list at the end of November 2021 due to the emergence of the Omicron variant, which was first identified in South Africa.
That meant only British or Irish nationals and those with residency rights could enter the UK from those countries. The travelers also had to go into hotel isolation for 10 full days and take two COVID-19 tests after arrival at their own expense.