The three countries at risk of being added to the travel red list

Omicron: Commuters have their say over coronavirus measures

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Otherwise known as B.1.1.529, genetic sequencing identified the first case of the strain in Botswana last week. The Government reacted almost instantly, locking out several countries within the African continent. But that didn’t stop others from reporting their first cases over the weekend, with several countries now sequencing infections of their own.

Which countries could enter the UK’s Covid red list?

The Government has added six countries at the centre of the Omicron outbreak to the red list, locations on which the Government advises people “should not travel to”.

Those countries include:

  • South Africa
  • Botswana
  • Eswatini
  • Lesotho
  • Namibia
  • Zimbabwe

Only two of those six – South Africa and Botswana – have notable concentrations of Omicron.

They have the most cases, 19 and 77 each respectively, but another 13 nations have also reported infections stemming from the new variant.

The UK has the highest totals in Europe, with 14 cases between England and Scotland, five to nine respectively.

Portugal and the Netherlands have comparable rates, with national authorities identifying 13 in each country.

Germany and Hong Kong have reported three cases each, while Australia and Denmark have reported two.

Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Israel, Italy and Spain have each recorded a single Omicron case.

Some of these countries could soon join the other red list residents.

According to one minister, the Government has its eyes trained on Europe.

Speaking to Sky News, health minister Gillian Keegan said the Government would take “immediate action” following a spike in Europe.

Countries with higher case totals – such as Portugal and the Netherlands – could find themselves on the list next.

She refused to rule out whether her department would imminently add new countries to the list, reiterating a pledge to “keep things going” without shutting off travel full stop.

Ms Keegan said: “Obviously, we’ve put some more countries on the red list, but we’re not doing some things which would potentially shut travel down altogether.”

As with its last few iterations, the red travel list is subject to review.

Ministers will look over its constituents every three weeks, and the health minister said they would “continue to do that”.

Despite assurances, the Government’s recent actions have spooked the travel industry, which has tentatively recovered over the last few months.

Airlines and transport chiefs have jointly criticised the “emergency response” made just weeks after the US lifted its travel restrictions on the UK and Europe at large.

EU airline association Airlines for Europe (A4E) urged officials to track variants while keeping border closures a “measure of last resort”.

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