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Closed petition Remove South Africa from the travel 'Red List'

The Government should urgently review its travel policy towards South Africa to ensure it is fully aligned with the latest scientific evidence, and therefore remove South Africa from the travel 'Red List'.

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Red list travel restrictions to southern Africa are unfair and are inflicting real social, environmental and economic hardship on families, businesses and ecosystems with no scientific justification given, and should therefore be removed.

This petition is closed All petitions run for 6 months

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Government responded

This response was given on 23 August 2021

Ministerial decisions on allocations to the red list are informed by the latest scientific data and public health advice, to protect public health and the vaccine rollout from variants of concern.

Read the response in full

From 24 December 2020, visitors arriving into England who had departed from or transited through South Africa in the previous ten days were prohibited, following evidence suggesting community transmission of new variants of concern. The government took this decisive action to impose additional measures on South Africa to prevent further domestic infection in the UK. These measures excluded commercially operated aircraft carrying no passengers and aircraft operated by or in support of Her Majesty’s Government in the UK.

From 15 February 2021, international arrivals to England were required to quarantine in a government-managed hotel if, within the ten days before arrival, they had been in or transited a country to which a travel ban applied. This included arrivals from South Africa.

On 17 May 2021, the Government introduced the traffic light system to provide a framework for a safe and sustainable return to international travel. The traffic light system categorises countries and territories based on risk to protect public health and the vaccine rollout from variants of COVID-19. The traffic light system categorises countries based on risk to protect public health and the vaccine rollout from variants of COVID-19. The Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) produces risk assessments of countries and territories. Decisions on red, amber or green list assignment and associated border measures are taken by Ministers, who take into account the JBC risk assessments, alongside wider public health factors.
Key factors in the JBC risk assessment of each country include:

o Genomic surveillance capability

o COVID-19 transmission risk

o Variant of Concern transmission risk

A summary of the JBC methodology is published on, alongside key data that supports Ministers' decisions. The summary of the JBC methodology is available here: and the data is available here:

Country allocations to the traffic light system are reviewed every three weeks, unless concerning evidence means we need to act faster to protect public health. At the most recent review on 4 August, it was decided that South Africa would remain on the red list as South Africa continues to present a high public health risk to the UK from known variants of concern.

The current measures permit entry to only British and Irish Nationals (and third country nationals with residence rights in the UK) arriving from high-risk (commonly referred to as red list) countries, who are also required to quarantine in government managed hotels. These are all temporary measures that are kept under regular review and the government maintains that they will only be kept in place whilst the level of public health risk justifies the measures.

We will not compromise on the progress we have made on our vaccine programme by allowing people to freely mix abroad and return or travel to the UK without proper checks and procedures. This is just the start for opening international travel, with the UK leading the way with a robust system.

As with all our coronavirus measures, we keep the red list under regular review and our priority remains to protect the health of the public in the UK.

Department for Transport

MPs debate changes to travel restrictions for red list countries

On 14 December, the Government announced that all 11 countries which had been on the 'red list' would be removed as of 4am, Wednesday 15 December. The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid MP also confirmed that temporary testing measures for international travel will be retained.

MPs discussed these changes as part of a debate on a range of changes to covid-19 restrictions.

Read the Government's announcement of these changes:

Read updated guidance for travel to England:

Read what was said during the debate: