Turkey said it expects to be removed from the UK’s travel red list within days, as ministers prepare to update its traffic light system for the last time this summer.
Before the changes can be signed off by the government on Thursday, there is also pressure to ease restrictions on passengers arriving from Pakistan.
However, senior Whitehall sources downplayed any suggestion of a major overhaul, noting that the announcement was unlikely to affect as many vacationers as previous reviews.
After easing quarantine rules last month, allowing fully-immunized travelers returning from amber-listed countries to avoid self-isolation, attention is particularly focused on the red list, which includes 60 countries.
Only British residents and nationals are allowed to travel from these countries to the UK and must stay in a hotel for 11 nights upon arrival, starting at £2,285 per adult.
Government insiders told The Guardian that the red list was no longer seen as a mechanism to temporarily halt passenger traffic, but rather as a medium-term ban.
Turkey and Pakistan are among the red list countries that hope to be included in the amber list. This means that all passengers will be allowed to re-enter the UK as long as they test negative for Covid before travelling. Some will have to isolate at home for up to 10 days, while those in the UK, Europe or the US who have been fully vaccinated with a drug approved by the relevant regulators can skip quarantine altogether.
Turkey’s embassy in London said the latest scientific data “supports our expectations” that the country “will be removed from the red list in the next review”. She said case numbers in Turkey were “declining and lower than in the UK”, with the seven-day average in Turkey at 232.46 cases per 100,000 people, compared to 464.76 in the UK.
The embassy also sought to show that it was transparent about its data, saying that Turkey is now uploading the third most genome sequence of any country in the world, and adding that countries that now allow Turks to be fully inoculated include the United States, Germany, France and Ireland. .
It offers citizens the Pfizer and Sinovac vaccine. The latter is not approved for use in the UK by the MHRA, the medicines regulator.
“We expect the UK to take into account all these developments and to remove Turkey from the red list this week,” the embassy said in a statement, adding that it could allow the 500,000 Turks living in the UK to make “essential flights”.
Ministers are also facing calls to remove Pakistan from the red list. Labor MP Yasmin Qureshi and Conservative MP Rahman Chishti, who lead the all-party parliamentary group in Pakistan, wrote to Transport Minister Grant Shapps, urging him to reclassify it as Amber.
They said there were no worrisome variables in Pakistan other than Delta, which already accounts for the majority of cases in the UK, and keeping Pakistan on the Red List “caused extreme suffering for the many people within the diaspora who were unable to see family members, especially parents with disease.” dangerous, as well as those who separate spouses and children.”