Covid-19: UK removes Kenya from 'Red List' travel ban

Friday September 17 2021
Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a past meeting. PHOTO | FILE | NMG


The UK has moved Kenya and seven other destinations from its Red List to its Amber List in what could ease travel.

The decision announced Friday, which takes effect at 4am on September 22, is part of a series of changes that will see the current system of restrictions abolished and new regulations introduced from October which will focus on vaccination status.

The Red List restricts travellers coming from those countries from entering the UK.

Other countries removed from the Red List are Egypt, Maldives, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Travellers from Kenya will be exempted from compulsory hotel quarantine, although they may be required to isolate for 10 days and take tests.

Easier travel


Grant Shapps, the UK Transport Secretary, said the changes are meant to “to simplify international travel in order to reduce costs, take advantage of higher levels of vaccination, and keep us all safe.”

“We are making it easier to travel,” he said. “From Mon, 4 Oct, if you are fully vax, you won’t need pre-departure tests before arrival into Englang from a non-red country and from later in Oct, we will be able to replace the Day 2 PCR test with a cheaper lateral flow,” he added.

For Kenya, being removed from the Red List means saving on hotel bills as all arrivals had been required to prepay for those facilities for quarantine.

Instead, they will be subjected to easier regime of rules that will include testing for Covid-19, if staying longer than a day in the country.

The cost of testing will, however, be lower from next month.

“It is good news for business, tourism, students and their parents,” said Manoah Esipisu, Kenya’s High Commissioner to the UK.

UK nationals had been barred from travelling to those countries, and passengers from those countries had been barred from travelling to the UK. Nationals arriving from Red List countries were required to quarantine at specified hotels, at their cost.

Kenya is now categorised as Amber, a lower rank than Red.

Nairobi was placed on the Red List in April as it was then considered either risky for having high cases of Covid-19 or a poor surveillance of cases to prevent infection.

Kenya protested the ranking, arguing it was being punished in spite of having fewer infections than the UK.

“Today’s changes mean a simpler, more straightforward system. One with less testing and lower costs, allowing more people to travel, see loved ones or conduct business around the world while providing a boost for the travel industry,” Shapps said of the new two-tier system to be launched in October.

“Public health has always been at the heart of our international travel policy and with more than 8 in 10 adults vaccinated in the UK, we are now able to introduce a proportionate updated structure that reflects the new landscape.”

New rules

For now, at least until October 4, Kenyans travelling to England (part of the UK) will have to provide a negative test result on arrival, not older than 72 hours, but will take another test once they land, for those fully vaccinated. Travellers must pay for the lab test before they leave for England.

Fully vaccinated people may not need quarantine under the new rules for Kenya, but those travelling through Kenya from countries listed on the Red List must quarantine at their residences or hotels of their choice for 10 days after which they will take tests.

Known as the ‘Traffic-light system’, the UK had been categorising countries as Red, Amber and Green with each category having a separate set of conditions for passengers wishing to travel to the UK.

Those not recognised as fully vaccinated with authorised vaccines and certificates under England’s international travel rules, will still have to take a pre-departure test, a day 2 and day 8 PCR test and self-isolate for 10 days upon their return from a non-red list country under the new two-tiered travel programme.

“I know how this has been difficult but our Kenya-UK partnership remains strong. The fight against Covid-19 is still not over, from vaccines to genomic sequencing – we will continue to work together to beat the pandemic,” said Jane Marriott, UK High Commissioner to Kenya.

As of Friday, Kenya has recorded 245,781 infections, with 236,902 recoveries and 4,961 deaths, according to the Ministry of Health. The country reported 444 new cases out of 7,511 tests on Friday, the lowest infection rate in nearly two months.

At least 3.2 million people had received one or both vaccine doses by Monday.