Ministers are considering abandoning hotel quarantine for fully vaccinated travellers, according to reports, after Health Secretary Sajid Javid admitted its justification is “minimised”.
Concerns over the Omicron coronavirus variant led to the red list being resurrected last month.
People arriving in the UK from 11 African countries such as South Africa, Nigeria and Zambia must spend 11 nights in a quarantine hotel at a cost of £2,285 for solo travellers.
The justification for having those rules is minimisedHealth Secretary Sajid Javid
But the Daily Telegraph reported that the Cabinet’s Covid-19 operations (Covid-O) committee will discuss scrapping the policy for fully vaccinated arrivals ahead of Christmas.
An announcement could be made as early as Tuesday.
Other rules introduced due to Omicron include requiring fully vaccinated travellers entering the UK to take a pre-departure test, and to self-isolate until they receive a negative result from a post-arrival PCR test.
In the House of Commons on Monday, Labour former minister Ben Bradshaw called for the “very draconian, costly and complex” travel rules to be axed.
In response, Mr Javid said: “I think (Mr Bradshaw) makes a very good point, given that we already know that the Omicron variant is fast becoming the dominant variant in our capital city, spreading rapidly throughout the country, the justification for having those rules is minimised.
“It’s something that I’ve already raised with my colleagues in the Department for Transport and I do hope that we can act quickly.”
Travel industry leaders have urged the Government not to keep the tougher testing and quarantine rules in place for longer than necessary.
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: “With Omicron so prevalent in the UK, the inbound red list is now irrelevant and should have no countries on it. That would also mean the end of hotel quarantine.
“No Government would want to be putting inbound travellers in forced hotel isolation during the Christmas period, so ministers will have to abandon it.
“If they don’t lift restrictions fully, especially testing, then support measures will be urgently needed to help protect jobs in the travel sector and the Treasury has been surprisingly silent on this.
“Ministers have to adopt individual not blanket measures. Those who have been fully boosted should have no restrictions placed on them at all, if only to act as an incentive for people to get topped up.”
Sir Mike Gooley, founder and chairman of travel firm Trailfinders, said “it doesn’t seem to be quite a logical process” in relation to travel rules.
He told Sky News the sector is “already on its knees”, adding that the requirements are “completely inappropriate and over the top”.