UK to remove Sri Lanka, seven other countries from COVID-19 ‘red list’ Sep 22

Sri Lanka will be removed from the red list of the United Kingdom (UK) with effect from next Wednesday (22), the UK government said, in a move that is likely to see the return of high spending tourists from the former colonial power visiting the island nation.

Sri Lanka has been in the red list since June 08, as part of a group of countries the UK government has defined as particularly high-risk for new and emerging strains of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. British passport holders visiting red list countries have to spend more money and time on quarantine.

“Conducting the final regular traffic light review before the switch to the new two-tiered system, several additional countries and territories will move off the red list,” the UK government said in a statement on Friday (17).

Sri Lanka, Turkey, Pakistan, the Maldives, Egypt, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya will be removed from the red list from September 22, before it switches to a simpler two-tiered travel system from the current three-tiered traffic light system, allowing for fully-vaccinated persons to travel with simple and cheaper rules, it said.

“Today’s changes mean a simpler, more straightforward system. One with less testing and lower costs, allowing more people to travel, see loved ones or conduct business around the world while providing a boost for the travel industry,” Grant Shapps Transport Secretary said in its government

Research conducted by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has revealed Sri Lanka’s economy was facing a loss of more than 260 million Sri Lankan rupees each day when it remained on the UK’s ‘Red List’ for travel.

If a traveler re-entering the UK after visiting a red list country, he or she has to spend 11 nights in a quarantine hotel, at a cost of £2,285 for solo travelers, the BBC has reported.

Sri Lanka saw over 254,000 UK travelers visit the country in 2018 before it fell by around 20 percent in 2019 due to the Easter Sunday attack. UK nationals have been the highest foreign travelers to Sri Lanka after India in both 2018 and 2019.

From the end of October, fully vaccinated travellers from non-red list countries will no longer be required to take pre-departure tests (PDTs) and will be allowed to take lateral flow tests rather than the expensive PCR test, the UK government said.

“The government wants to introduce this by the end of October, aiming to have it in place for when people return from half-term breaks.”

However, as of now, the UK only recognizes Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca, Moderna, Janssen (Johnson and Johnson) vaccines in the country.

Passengers, who are not recognised as fully-vaccinated with the vaccines and certificates under England’s international travel rules, will still have to take a pre-departure test, a day 2 and day 8 PCR test and self-isolate for 10 days upon their return from a non-red list country under the new two-tiered travel programme.

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