Tourism boon as Britain to remove southern African countries from ‘red list’

HARARE – Britain is set to announce the removal of Zimbabwe and other southern African countries from a so-called “red list” of destinations which had starved the region of tourism earnings.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will open up more countries for hotel quarantine-free travel later this week by slashing the “red list” of destinations to nine from 54, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

The “red list” placement means people in the UK are banned from travelling to all countries in southern Africa. It also means anyone traveling from Britain to the region faces a mandatory 10-day quarantine when returning home, even if they are fully vaccinated and test negative for coronavirus.

The policy change will allow fully vaccinated British tourists and Zimbabweans living in the United Kingdom to travel home for the school half term, later this month, and Christmas holidays without the financial penalty of a hotel quarantine.

Zimbabwe Tourism Authority head of corporate affairs Godfrey Koti said: “This is most welcome news. UK tourists are the second largest contributors to our tourism earnings, behind the United States. We look forward to welcoming them.”

The changes are set to be announced on Thursday, and will likely result in a surge of bookings, boosting airlines and travel companies that have been brought to their knees during the pandemic.

Britain’s hotel quarantine policy for higher risk countries costs £2,285 (US$3,095) per adult, deterring global travel.

Britain is already planning to relax its travel rules from October 4 by scrapping its amber list for medium risk destinations and no longer requiring fully vaccinated passengers to take a Covid-19 test before they arrive in the country from places not on the red list.

The government has said that from later in October, arrivals in England will no longer have to take a PCR test two days after arrival and can instead opt for the cheaper lateral flow test.

There are currently 54 countries and territories on the red list, including all of mainland South America and southern Africa and a few more countries in southeast Asia, central America and the Caribbean.

The policy change by the UK will mean fully vaccinated arrivals from countries including South Africa, Brazil, Mexico and Indonesia will no longer have to quarantine in a government-designated hotel.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa last week revealed that he had lobbied Johnson to remove the country from the “red list”.

Ramaphosa said he “put South Africa’s case” to the British prime minister, “which he understood very well”.

“We hope for a positive outcome when the subject comes up for review in the coming days by their scientists,” Ramaphosa said.

The Sunday Telegraph reports that British government officials have been assured that the Beta variant of the coronavirus “has largely disappeared from South Africa”.

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