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UK government expected to retain travel red list long-term

The UK government is likely to retain its red list of countries and the industry is “better off” if it does.

That is according to Dale Keller, chief executive of the UK Board of Airline Representatives (BAR-UK), who has worked alongside other aviation bodies and the Department for Transport in implementing government controls throughout the pandemic.

His comments, at the Latin American Travel Association (Lata) Expo, follow calls from leading industry bodies for the abolition of the UK red list.

Julia Simpson, president and chief executive of the World Travel & Tourism Council, dismissed the red list as “ridiculous” last week and told Abta’s Travel Convention “They’ve got to absolutely get rid of the red list. We don’t need it.”

She insisted: “We can assess people on an individual basis now. If people are double vaccinated they should be able to travel quite freely.”

But Keller told the Lata event: “I don’t think we’ll see the red list vanishing and we don’t really support that because it’s a great mechanism for the government to have at its disposal.”

He insisted: “You’re better off to have a red list than to start imposing restrictions when we’ve worked so hard to get them off.

“Whether or not there are countries on the list, you don’t want to remove the red list from policy because it allows the government to react quickly without applying a more intensive regime across the rest of world.”

However Gary Cohen, regional general manager for the Americas at Intrepid Group company PEAK DMC, expressed “mixed feelings” at retention of a list that comprises Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Peru, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

He told the Lata Expo: “If you look at the Covid and vaccination stats of Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Panama, they’re actually doing well. Most compare favourably to the UK.

“We had information from the British ambassador in Peru that suggested it’s primarily due to ‘variants of interest’ first identified in Peru and Colombia. Those variants have been around for over a year. They haven’t become dominant strains, haven’t had much impact and have been present in many other countries.”

He suggested: “There is a good chance some of these countries will come off the red list in the coming weeks or months.”

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