UK to review ban on travellers from Kenya today

British Airways

A British Airways aircraft. AFP PHOTO

Britain will today decide whether to lift the ban on travellers from Kenya entering the United Kingdom in its latest travel review.

Up to 24 countries, including Kenya, South Africa and Egypt, could be moved from the Red to the Green travel list this week, said several media outlets in the UK.

Travellers arriving in the UK from countries on the Red List will be denied entry while returning Britons must submit to 10 days of mandatory quarantine in hotels.

People coming from Green List countries don’t have to quarantine and have to provide evidence of two negative Covid tests -- one before returning to the UK and one on day two.

“We are finally hopeful that the UK will remove Kenya from the ‘Red List’ to the ‘Green List’ tomorrow (today),” said Patrick Amoth, director general at the Ministry of Health in a phone interview.

Travellers from Kenya were banned from entering the UK in April following the spread of the highly contagious Covid-19 Delta variant in the country, dealing a blow to the tourism sector.

The UK has segmented countries into green, amber and red lists, each carrying different degrees of restrictions for arrivals back to the UK.

It is expected to announce changes to the UK traffic light system today in the latest review, amid reports the regime could be scrapped altogether by next month.

“With no new variants of concern since early May, and with the UK having higher levels of Delta infection than most other countries, there is no reason to keep so many countries on the Red List,” Paul Charles, CEO of the PC Agency travel consultancy, was quoted in the British press saying.

The ban on Kenyan travellers came amid fears that the highly contagious Covid-19 Delta variant may spark the fourth wave of infections in Kenya.

Dr Amoth said Kenya has recorded a decline in Covid-19 infections while the number of admissions in health facilities are also falling.

The positivity rate -- the proportion of tests coming back positive -- climbed sharply by a double-digit from July, raising concerns among health officials.

The rate has dropped from 14.5 percent in August 15 to seven percent yesterday as the government steps up testing and vaccination.

In Kenya, 838,565 people have been fully vaccinated up from 746,267 in August 14 while the number of those who have received the first jab has jumped to 3.19 million from two million over the same period.

The country has received several vaccine donations, including from the UK, and has also procured some, with a target of inoculating 10 million Kenyans by next Christmas.

“We have vaccinated more people compared to when we were placed on the ‘Red List’. Our genomic surveillance and sequencing is also up -- so we will be able to pick up any variant in circulation which is of concern,” said Dr Amoth.

Kenya relaxed punitive requirements imposed on British citizens, which required them to undergo 14 days of isolation before entering the country.

In the mid-June review, the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority said British nationals and non-citizens travelling through London would be required to self-isolate for only seven days.

A decision to remove Kenya from England’s “Red List” will boost the East African nation’s tourism industry that earned Sh91.7 billion last year from Sh163.6 billion in 2019 as the coronavirus pandemic hit one of its biggest foreign exchange-earners.

Britain is one of Kenya’s main trading partners and in 2020 accounted for the fourth largest arrivals through Jomo Kenyatta International Airport with the 49,828 accounting for 8.8 percent of all visitors to the country.

Tourist arrivals from the UK stood at 16,264 in the first half of this year from 42,341 in similar period last year.