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UAE, Qatar and Bahrain removed from the UK red list

From 8 August, fully vaccinated travellers no longer need to pay to quarantine in the UK when arriving from the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain 

The UAE, Qatar and Bahrain will be removed from the UK’s travel red list and given amber status as of 4am BST on Sunday 8 August 2021.

After pressure from the UK tourism industry and media, the move by the UK government will provide a much-needed boost to the flagging tourism industry, driving additional revenue for both travel agents and airlines in the UK and for airlines, hotels and hospitality outlets in amber GCC countries.

While Oman remains on the red list, the UAE, Bahrain and Qatar join Saudia Arabia and Kuwait on the amber list, giving fully vaccinated UK residents more opportunities to holiday in the GCC.

Currently, only UK residents are permitted entry to the UK from red-list countries and they must pay to quarantine for 10 days at managed hotel facilities.

The regulation change has come at a good time. From 12 August 2021, the cost of the UK’s so-called ‘Covid hotels’ will increase from £1,750 (US$2,435) to £2,285 (US$3,180) per person, per 10-day stay. With more than 100,000 passengers undergoing hotel quarantine in England since the red list was created in January 2021, the revenue generated so far adds up to approximately £175m.

Arrivals from amber-list countries can quarantine at private accommodation, including their own homes or homes of family and friends. Those fully vaccinated with certification issued in the UK, US or EU don’t have to quarantine at all.

Currently, approved certification includes:

  • NHS Covid Pass
  • EU Digital Covid Certificate
  • CDC certification

The NHS Covid Pass is issued in the UK by the National Health Service. National authorities in European Union countries issue EU Digital Covid Certificates. CDC certification is issued in the US by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those who have been vaccinated in amber GCC countries, including the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, with certification issued by local authorities, will still have to self-isolate for 10 days, despite being fully vaccinated.

In addition, only certain vaccines are currently approved by the UK government. They are limited to:

  • Pfizer-BioNTech
  • Moderna
  • AstraZeneca
  • Johnson & Johnson

Many of those vaccinated with Sinopharm, commonly administered across the GCC, are now electing to have a second course of vaccinations with a UK-approved brand in order to enter the country, particularly those keen to reunite with loved ones. However, for amber country residents not vaccinated in the UK, US or EU, travelling to the UK still entails a mandatory 10-day home quarantine, even with an approved vaccine.

The UK’s Covid-19 Travel Requirements for Amber Residents
For those amber country residents not vaccinated under UK, US or EU programmes, the UK government website states: “If you have been in a country or territory on the amber list in the 10 days before you arrive in England, you must take a Covid-19 test in the three days before you travel; book and pay for Covid-19 tests to be taken after arrival in England and complete a passenger locator form. On arrival in England, you must quarantine at home or in the place you are staying for 10 days and take a Covid-19 test on or before day two and on or after day eight. If you’re travelling to England for less than 10 days, you will need to quarantine for the whole of your stay.”

Puzzlingly, the website also states: “You must still book your day two and day eight travel tests, even if you will no longer be in England on the dates of the tests. You only need to take the tests if you’re still in the country on those dates.”

People travelling to the UK from amber countries can also opt to ‘Test to Release’, which involves booking a third test at an additional cost to be taken on day five. Results are received with one to two days and, if negative, the person can end their isolation.

UK-GCC Flight Paths to Reopen
Flights between the GCC and UK have been running at a reduced rate, with some flights cancelled and others only operating routes to the UK capital, hindering travel plans for those not based in or heading to London. In light of the news, updates on flight paths to cities outside of London from Emirates, Etihad, Qatar Airways and Gulf Air – the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain national carriers – are expected in the coming days.

Commenting on the announcement, Emirates chief commercial officer Adnan Kazim said: “Emirates welcomes the decision to add the UAE to the UK’s ‘amber list’ for international travel, reflecting the extensive steps that have been taken to mitigate the spread of the virus in the UK and UAE. Since the UK’s announcement last evening, we’ve seen a huge surge in queries from customers desperate to travel to see their families, planning their kids’ return for the new school term, as well as their postponed business or holiday travel. Emirates is reviewing our operations to various points in the UK and any service restart will be announced in the usual fashion.

“The UAE currently has one of the world’s most successful vaccination programmes – with over 79% of the population having received one dose and over 71% already fully vaccinated. Given the low numbers of coronavirus cases in the UAE, the extensive testing at Dubai International Airport, and the careful health and safety measures in place across the passenger journey, we hope to see the UAE moving to the ‘green’ list soon. We have been working closely with partners around the world, including IATA, to help passengers easily and securely manage their travel in line with any government requirements for Covid-19 testing or vaccine information and will continue to work with the UK government to safely resume travel.”

Getting on the UK Green List 
Travellers arriving in the UK from a green list destination do not need to quarantine unless they test positive for Covid-19. The tourism industry is disappointed that the UK government hasn’t done more to support travel’s recovery, and getting on the green list in time for peak summer trading remains an unattainable goal for many destinations. The only destinations currently holding green list status are:

Anguilla
Antarctica/British Antarctic Territory
Antigua and Barbuda
Australia
Barbados
Bermuda
British Indian Ocean Territory
Brunei
Bulgaria
Cayman Islands
Croatia
Dominica
Falkland Islands
Faroe Islands
Gibraltar
Grenada
Hong Kong
Iceland
Israel
Jerusalem
Madeira
Malta
Montserrat
New Zealand
Pitcairn
Henderson
Ducie and Oeno Islands
Singapore
South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands
St Helena
Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
Taiwan
Turks and Caicos Islands

(List as of August 2021)

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