UK adorns red list of seven countries in bid to encourage air travel

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The UK has relaxed entry rules for 47 countries and territories that were subject to the strictest Covid-19 restrictions, in the final step to remove travel restrictions and revive businesses dependent on tourism.

Airlines shares rose on Friday, after the transportation ministry said visitors from South Africa, Mexico and Brazil no longer required a 10-day hotel quarantine. Only seven countries – all in Latin America – will remain on the so-called red list after the changes go into effect on Monday.

The UK is easing border restrictions after frustrating airlines with ever-changing rules during most of the pandemic. A new system that does away with a complicated ‘traffic light’ approach went into effect this week, and destinations like Turkey, Pakistan and the Maldives have already been moved to the ‘rest of the world’ category.

“You finally have the impression of seeing the light at the end of a very long tunnel,” said Sean Doyle, CEO of British Airways, in a separate statement. The airline will start increasing its flights to South Africa and Mexico, with daily flights to Johannesburg and twice daily flights to Cape Town by the end of the year.

Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru and Venezuela will remain on the red list, the DfT said on Thursday.

Stocks win

Shares of tour operator TUI AG rose 5.4% in London, while British Airways owner IAG SA rose 3.2%. UK-focused carriers that tend to operate shorter flights, such as Irish discounter Ryanair Holdings Plc and EasyJet Plc, recorded smaller gains.

The UK has also moved forward on a separate policy that has sparked an uproar over fairness – its failure to recognize vaccine certifications issued in a number of countries, including India and South Africa. The UK will now accept documents from vaccinated travelers in these countries and 35 other locations, including Brazil, Ghana, Pakistan and Turkey, bringing the total to 105.

Read more: UK faces backlash against selective vaccine policy at border

With the United States on the verge of lifting its ban on visitors from Europe and a number of other major markets, airlines are now optimistic that long-distance travel – including the lucrative North Atlantic market – will soon increase.

“Once we have a firm date for reopening US borders in November, we look forward to reconnecting our two countries,” Doyle said.

Airlines were already adding flights in December to former Red List countries such as South Africa, Mexico, Brazil, Thailand and Costa Rica, aviation tracker Cirium said via email. .

Read: Airlines add winter flights between US and Europe as a sign of hope

Test requirement

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has called for an accelerated resumption of international travel, hosting a meeting of G-7 ministers to discuss vaccine passports and the timing of changes at the U.S. border.

The latest measures come a day after Britain dropped its advice against non-essential travel to 32 Green List countries, including Ghana and Malaysia, a change the government said removes a barrier to getting travel insurance for visits there.

Despite the progress, the easing of UK rules has not gone as far as the airline, hotel and catering industries would like. The Airport Operators Association has said that maintaining the requirement for passengers to take a Covid-19 test two days after arrival will deter some travelers.

Britain has averaged just under 39,000 new cases of coronavirus a day over the past week, according to data compiled at Johns Hopkins University. Daily deaths averaged 110, well below peaks reached in January.

(Updates with Friday’s negotiation from second paragraph; Cirium commentary on 11th paragraph)

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