Turkey could be removed from UK travel red list at September review

The United Kingdom may move Turkey to its medium-risk amber travel category at the next “traffic light” review later this month, according to experts.

“The positive test rate still a little too high but (Turkey) seems to have made great strides in submitting data about genomic sequencing now. I suspect it will be removed from the red list in the next review,” analyst Tim White told the Independent on Wednesday.

Turkey is hoping to be removed from the United Kingdom’s travel red list as it seeks to boost tourism bookings in the late season and prevent the possible early closure of hotels.

Around 300,000 to 400,000 British tourists could arrive in Turkey’s largest tourism hub of Antalya by the end of September should the restrictions be lifted, Davut Çetin, the head of the province’s main business group, told the Dünya newspaper last week.

The British government added Turkey to the highest risk category on May 12 amid concerns over emergent COVID-19 variants, but it preparing to review the designation on Sept. 15.

If removed from the red list, those fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in the United Kingdom, the European Union or United States, would be able to travel from Turkey without needing quarantine on arrival in Britain, the Independent said.

Unvaccinated travellers, or those vaccinated by programmes not recognised by the United Kingdom would still need to self-isolate for 10 days and take a further PCR test, the newspaper said.

“There is little justification for Turkey to remain on the ‘red’ list given there are amber-listed countries with a higher seven-day incidence rate, such as France and Greece,” analyst Ben McCluskey told the Independent.

Turkey has “significantly” increased its contribution to Gisaid - the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data, which compiles data on variants of concern, he added.

Turkey registered 23,946 new infections and 290 deaths on Wednesday, the Health Ministry said. COVID-19 cases have risen from less than 5,000 per day in early July, when the government eased restrictions, to more than 27,000 on Aug. 11, the highest levels since April.  

Vaccination rates in Turkey are below the European average. Some 37.43 million adults have received two doses according to Health Ministry data, equal to roughly 44 percent of the total 85 million population.

In the EU, the full inoculation rate among all age groups stands at 58 percent, according to ourworldindata.org. Among adults, the rate has reached an average of 70 percent.