The United Kingdom will lift COVID-19 travel restrictions on 11 countries on Wednesday after recognizing a high rate of community transmission of the omicron variant in Britain.
U.K. Health Secretary Sajid Javid told Parliament on Tuesday that Britain would be removing 11 African countries from its COVID-19 “red list” at 4 a.m. on Wednesday because of how widespread the omicron variant has become in Britain and around the globe.
“Now that there is community transmission of Omicron in the U.K. and Omicron has spread so widely across the world, the travel red list is now less effective in slowing the incursion of Omicron from abroad,” Javid said, according to Reuters.
“We will be removing all 11 countries from the travel red list effective from 4 a.m. tomorrow morning,” he added.
Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe will all be removed from the red list, according to the news wire.
Travelers planning to enter the U.K., however, will still be required to take a PCR or rapid COVID-19 test within 48 hours of departing for the country, according to Reuters.
The U.K. announced last month that it would restrict travel from a handful of countries after the highly mutated omicron variant was first detected in South Africa.
The U.S., among other nations, implemented similar travel restrictions in an effort to curb the spread of the new strain. Despite those actions, the variant has been reported in dozens of countries and U.S. states in recent weeks.
The U.K. has recorded more than 4,700 omicron coronavirus cases, according to Reuters, with 10 of the infected people being hospitalized. At least one person in the U.K. has died after contracting the variant, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday.
Johnson is now deploying an increased push to encourage Britons to get their booster shots ahead of a “tidal wave of omicron.” On Sunday he said two doses of existing vaccines are not enough to protect against the new strain but that scientists are confident that a third jab will “bring our level of protection back up,” echoing preliminary studies from Pfizer and BioNTech.
The prime minister added that the U.K. is “facing an emergency in our battle with the new variant, omicron.”