109 countries on the quarantine list have lower Covid rates than the UK

Oliver Smith
·6 min read
South Africa is among the most high-profile omissions  - Getty
South Africa is among the most high-profile omissions - Getty

More than 100 countries on the UK’s “high-risk” travel list now have a lower Covid infection rate than Britain.  

The seven-day case rate for the UK, as of December 16, stands at 207.4 per 100,000 residents – lower than the US (470.6 per 100,000) and 27 European nations (including Croatia, Denmark and Portugal), but higher than the vast majority of the world. 

Nevertheless, of the 149 countries beneath the UK in the Covid table, only 40 have been granted a travel corridor permitting Britons to visit without a 10-day quarantine when they return. 

Not all of the 109 snubbed destinations (see below for the full list) are open to British tourists, but many are. This includes the likes of Egypt, where the seven-day infection rate is just 3.4 per 100,000, Kenya, where it’s a lowly 6.5, Jamaica (20.6), Mexico (58.4) and South Africa (89.6). 

The reticence to grant more travel corridors – just two were announced last week, to Botswana and Saudi Arabia – is a source of growing exasperation for tour operators, who cannot offer trips against Foreign Office (FCDO) advice to non-travel corridor countries. 

“Travel corridors definitely need expanding,” said Noel Josephides, Director of Industry Affairs at AITO, which represents scores of independent tour operators. “If countries with lower Covid rates than the UK are happy to accept British visitors, it seems unreasonable that travel to these destinations is not made feasible immediately. We don’t see why this should present any risk whatsoever to the UK.” 

Indeed, the latest ONS data shows that travelling abroad does not increase the risk of catching the virus, while many destinations now require overseas visitors to take a test before they arrive. 

Three African countries – Namibia, Rwanda and Botswana – were added to the travel corridor list in recent weeks, but many others have vanishingly small case rates and are still being ignored. 

Furthermore, Namibia and Botswana cannot be reached without a transfer in a non-corridor country, so quarantine-free trips are impossible. 

Candice Buchan of Africa specialist Rainbow Tours, said: “South Africa and Kenya really need to be added to the green list because they are the regional hubs to Southern and Eastern Africa respectively. The lack of corridors is also overwhelming capacity in the few places we can actually visit. There were huge numbers booking to Europe in the summer whenever a country was put on the safe list and we are seeing it happen in Dubai now, too.” 

Liddy Pleasants, Managing Director of family travel specialist Stubborn Mule, added: “We are completely baffled by the FCDO’s continued reluctance to open travel corridors with countries that have considerably lower incidences of Covid than we do in the UK. Of course we understand that there are many factors that have to be considered, including reliability of reporting, availability of good quality health care locally, and so on. We also understand that it is counter-productive to open corridors where there is a risk of another wave, as this can make the situation even more difficult for the travel industry. However, there are a number of countries with excellent health care systems and persistently low rates that should be added to the corridor list. Oman is a good example.”

The current situation threatens to put dozens of travel firms, which employ hundreds of thousands of Britons, out of business, but is also pushing millions of people in developing countries closer to poverty. As part of The Telegraph’s Unlock Long Haul campaign, we’ve been highlighting the dire problems facing residents in tourism-reliant destinations such as Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. All three have far lower Covid infection rates than the UK (21.1, 38.2 and 14.9, respectively), and are welcoming tourists, but are not on the green list. 

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LOGO: Unlock Long Haul

A lack of testing has been used to explain why some countries are being snubbed by the Government. Yet there are many discrepancies. According to Our World in Data, South Africa has carried out almost 100 tests per 1,000 people since the start of the pandemic, but doesn’t have a travel corridor, while Japan and South Korea, which have done just 30 per 1,000 and 66 per 1,000, respectively, do. Similarly, overlooked Colombia (108), India (114), Argentina (79) and Morocco (112) have tested considerably more people than many countries on the green list.

The Government’s reticence to add new corridors has not been matched by a shyness when it comes to removing them. Last week the Canary Islands were ditched, causing consternation among travellers due to visit, but its case rate currently stands at just 60.4 per 100,000. Lanzarote, one of four islands in the archipelago with a direct flight from the UK, recorded just three new cases yesterday, as did Fuerteventura.

As things stand there are just 23 destinations on the travel corridor list that are actually welcoming UK holidaymakers. 

The 109 red-listed countries with a lower case rate than Britain 

  1. Albania 194.1127054 per 100,000

  2. Germany 193.1713663

  3. Bosnia and Herzegovina 189.8054983

  4. Poland 187.6480375

  5. Italy 187.2904138

  6. Kosovo 180.0249282

  7. Jordan 179.7205728

  8. Ukraine 177.2804564

  9. Belgium 145.2976816

  10. Lebanon 142.2413006

  11. Belarus 141.8708738

  12. Brazil 140.84878

  13. Costa Rica 133.3349068

  14. Russia 131.6137642

  15. Canada 129.7773466

  16. Spain 128.1660853

  17. Malta 124.9146899

  18. France 122.1516144

  19. Colombia 120.9216317

  20. South Africa 89.63367742

  21. Paraguay 85.27802548

  22. Greece 77.62171611 (five islands, including Crete, are on the green list)

  23. Monaco 77.55545215

  24. Argentina 74.84744969

  25. Iran 74.66601363

  26. Tunisia 67.40910061

  27. Libya 60.35725927

  28. Mexico 58.42344054

  29. Dominican Republic 58.03052837

  30. Cabo Verde 54.61898203

  31. Morocco 54.2089017

  32. Kuwait 43.74824312

  33. Peru 38.19407366

  34. Guyana 35.42985659

  35. Mauritania 35.31427089

  36. Kyrgyzstan 35.14994142

  37. Kazakhstan 33.83033042

  38. Bahamas 30.85779483

  39. Eswatini 30.71666648

  40. Honduras 30.61270681

  41. Oman 28.86437327

  42. El Salvador 24.62331468

  43. Nepal 24.22041884

  44. Iraq 24.00243537

  45. Ecuador 21.09532129

  46. Guatemala 20.92439926

  47. Jamaica 20.58023309

  48. Burma 16.62309961

  49. Indonesia 15.91065287

  50. India 14.96321212

  51. Bolivia 14.86813078

  52. Uganda 11.62835905

  53. Venezuela 11.15683493

  54. Suriname 9.722374134

  55. Pakistan 9.455974914

  56. Algeria 8.641098157

  57. Trinidad and Tobago 8.490075965

  58. Philippines 8.489298486

  59. Congo (Brazzaville) 8.123007503

  60. Bangladesh 7.600583205

  61. Lesotho 7.447351494

  62. Kenya 6.535908288

  63. Syria 5.157845755

  64. Burkina Faso 4.986954178

  65. Sudan 4.41132147

  66. Zimbabwe 4.224664032

  67. Senegal 3.910596202

  68. Djibouti 3.649939515

  69. Gabon 3.444574206

  70. Egypt 3.38130303

  71. Ghana 3.345975027

  72. Afghanistan 3.325048868

  73. Uzbekistan 3.140608216

  74. Ethiopia 2.999325454

  75. Tajikistan 2.922808089

  76. Zambia 2.679833853

  77. Cameroon 2.407179152

  78. Sao Tome and Principe 2.36935383

  79. Mali 2.285391995

  80. Mozambique 2.268107072

  81. Equatorial Guinea 2.215475632

  82. Togo 2.066143463

  83. Angola 2.054543622

  84. Nigeria 2.009957997

  85. Eritrea 1.929077167

  86. Haiti 1.780067132

  87. Liberia 1.680854671

  88. Niger 1.666447741

  89. Guinea 1.554656486

  90. Comoros 1.321603898

  91. Cote d'Ivoire 1.045105934

  92. Congo (Kinshasa) 1.007516633

  93. Nicaragua 0.7578671638

  94. Papua New Guinea 0.4763943132

  95. The Gambia 0.4385768707

  96. Madagascar 0.4340811918

  97. South Sudan 0.3735449967

  98. Somalia 0.3598044103

  99. Chad 0.3553487842

  100. Sierra Leone 0.3006475425

  101. Central African Republic 0.1928691145

  102. Burundi 0.1700166205

  103. Guinea-Bissau 0.1600589871

  104. Malawi 0.159838486

  105. Benin 0.1480185368

  106. Taiwan 0.1009251472

  107. China 0.05421007661

  108. Laos 0.02832256627

  109. Yemen 0.02105360152