LONDON (AP) – The UK government is preparing to ban international arrivals from four other countries – Bangladesh, Kenya, Pakistan and the Philippines – amid concerns over new variants of the virus, but has chosen not to include European countries facing a resurgence of the virus.
The Department for Transport said on Friday that the number of countries on its “red list” will reach 39 when the latest restrictions take effect in England from April 9. The rest of the UK – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – have similar lists.
Under travel bans, international visitors who have left or traveled through Red List countries in the previous 10 days are denied entry to England. Countries on the list include Brazil and South Africa, where two of the viral variants of greatest concern have been identified.
British and Irish citizens and people with right to stay in the UK can enter, as commercial flights are not prohibited. However, they must quarantine themselves in a government-approved hotel for 10 days at their own expense and must take a COVID-19 test on days two and eight of their self-isolation.
The measures aim to reduce the risk posed by new virus variants in the UK, which has recorded the highest number of COVID-related deaths in Europe, with more than 126,500 deaths.
No European country is on the British red list, although much of Europe is witnessing a resurgence of the virus which has prompted many countries to reimpose lockdown restrictions. Health experts say the outbreak is due to variants of the virus, including the one first identified in Britain, which are sweeping the continent. The World Health Organization on Thursday lamented the slow pace of vaccinations in European countries other than Britain, saying they were losing the race to protect their people.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government has questioned in recent days why France, which suffers from one of Europe’s worst epidemics, is not on the list. Yet placing France on the red list could have serious implications for trade flows to and from the UK, given its dependence on cross-Channel port traffic.
The UK Transport Department said the majority of cases of the South African variant detected in England so far have been linked to international travel and very few are believed to have come from Europe.
The UK has seen new coronavirus infections and deaths drop sharply since the winter amid a strict 3-month lockdown and rapid rollout of coronavirus vaccines. The UK has now given a first shot of the vaccine to more than 31 million people, or around 46% of its population, a much higher rate than the rest of Europe.
This week, restrictions on gatherings in England were relaxed following a sharp drop in the number of new cases from a daily rate of around 70,000 earlier this year. The UK recorded 3,402 new infections on Friday, its lowest level since mid-September. This week’s main easing allows groups of up to six people, or two households, to meet outdoors.
Johnson urged people on Friday to follow the rules and not mix indoors over this Easter weekend, even though people were given a vaccine.
“Even though your friends and family can be vaccinated, vaccines don’t offer 100% protection, and that’s why we just have to be careful,” he said in a session. questions and answers on Twitter. “We don’t think they reduce or entirely eliminate the risk of transmission.”
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