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COVID-19: All countries on red list to be removed as ‘less effective’ in slowing Omicron – Javid

All 11 countries on the travel red list will be removed as the system is “less effective in slowing the incursion” of the Omicron variant, Sajid Javid has announced.

The health secretary told the Commons the countries will be removed from 4am on Wednesday, so passengers from those nations will no longer have to isolate in a government-approved quarantine hotel for two weeks at the cost of £2,285.

He added that the temporary testing measures for everyone arriving in the UK from overseas will remain for now.

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Mr Javid said he has asked for “urgent advice” about whether people currently in hotel quarantine can be released.

He said in the past they have been required to fulfil their quarantine period but indicated he did not want to see that this time.

When asked whether people currently in hotel quarantine would be reimbursed, Mr Javid said: “I would love to stand here right now and just say that is the case, but there are some issues that need to be resolved, and they are urgently being looked at.

“I hope we can say something more on this as a government, potentially even as early as today.”

The 11 countries currently on the red list are: Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Since 7 December, all travellers arriving into the UK have had to take a pre-departure COVID-19 test a maximum of 48 hours before they depart.

All passengers, whether fully vaccinated or not, also need to take a day two PCR test after arriving in the UK, and must self-isolate until they test negative.

The Omicron variant first emerged in South Africa in early November and quickly spread to neighbouring countries then to nations around the world.

The red list was designed to halt variants entering the UK but modelling from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows Omicron is currently infecting 200,000 people a day in the UK.

Mr Javid said on Monday the variant now represents more than 20% of cases in England.

He also added that Omicron, which is thought to be much more transmissible than previous variants, represents more than 44% of infections in London, and it is expected to become the dominant variant in the capital by Thursday.

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