Hundreds of thousands of travellers and much of the travel industry are celebrating a Foreign Office decision to remove advice against travel to more than 30 countries.
Until now the FCDO has warned against non-essential travel to nations such as Bangladesh, Gambia, Ghana and Malaysia “based on the current assessment on Covid-19 risks”.
The warning has been in place even for nations with low infection rates and no variants of concern, and is at odds with the Department for Transport’s (DfT) assessment of risk from travellers returning from such countries.
The Foreign Office is expected no longer to advise against travel to non-red list countries on Covid-19 grounds, except in “exceptional circumstances” such as if the local healthcare system is overwhelmed.
Jamaica is possibly in this category, because it was not one of the nations named.
The foreign secretary, Liz Truss, said: “The change means people will be able to travel to a larger number of destinations with greater ease.
“We’re striking the right balance between keeping people safe which remains our priority and giving them the freedom to exercise personal responsibility, while supporting the travel sector as it continues to recover.”
While Foreign Office warnings are advisory only, one effect of this type of “no-go” warning is that standard travel insurance policies are not valid for affected countries. In addition, package holiday companies such as Tui do not operate to nations against Foreign Office advice.
None of the countries with advice being adjusted is currently on the government’s “red list” of 54 countries, from which travellers must quarantine in a hotel on entry to the UK.
The full list is: Algeria; Armenia; Bangladesh; Belarus; Benin; Comoros; Tokelau & Niue; Djibouti; Equatorial Guinea; Fiji; Gambia; Guinea; Kazakhstan; Kiribati; Kosovo; Liberia; Madagascar; Malaysia; Marshall Islands; Micronesia; Nauru; Sao Tome and Príncipe; Senegal; Solomon Islands; Togo; Tonga; Tuvalu; Vanuatu; Congo; American Samoa; French Polynesia; and Ghana.
Significant changes to the red list are expected to be announced on Thursday or Friday this week, with South Africa and many other nations likely to be removed. The expectation is that the FCDO will simultaneously remove its warnings against travel to those countries.
The Foreign Office announcement also gave a strong indication of how the government will spin the move to cull the red list dramatically.
Ministers are expected to say that improved public health, better understanding of the virus and the decreased risk to British nationals as a result of the vaccine roll out allows them to remove many countries.
While FCDO travel advice now aligns more closely with the Department for Transport’s risk assessments, the two ministries are measuring different aspects of a journey.
The Foreign Office looks at the risk to the individual traveller abroad, while the DfT is concerned with the danger to public health when the traveller returns.
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