Colombia on UK red list raises ire of British expats


New cases of coronavirus in Colombia have stalled over the last week near 1,200 per day, encouraging number given that on Tuesday, the country confirmed 1,211 cases compared to 2,791 in Canada; 5,558 (France); 7,763 (Germany); 25,133 (Russia); 29,802 (Turkey) and 98,504 (U.S). All countries recently removed from the U.K’s travel-ban red list.

With COVID-19 infecting 33,869 persons in the U.K on Tuesday, while Colombia nears pre-pandemic levels of cases and deaths from the disease, the U.K Government’s decision to maintain the South American nation on its red list even prompted The Independent to question in a headline: “Is there a conspiracy to put Colombia on the red list?”

Adding insult to injury, the U.K does not recognize Colombia’s vaccine certificate MiVacuna even if doses of Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen are exactly the same as those administered by the NHS to Britons and foreign residents. “Current travel rules are beyond frustrating, as they clearly do not reflect the data concerning Covid-19 in Colombia,” remarked Thomas Mullett from Shaftesbury, Dorset, in an interview with The Guardian. Mullett was quoted as feeling “truly abandoned by my own country,” an opinion shared increasingly by frustrated expats in the country. On social media feeds, Britons are referring to their government’s view of Colombia as “discriminatory”,”racist” and “spineless,” to name a few terms.

A petition to the U.K Government and Parliament requesting Colombia be removed “immediately” from the red list has received 3,070 signatures. The petition requires 10,000 signatures to be answered by Parliament, and 100,000 to be considered for debate. While the travel ban clearly affects Britons in Colombia, it also bars entry to Colombian wives, husbands, partners and children.

So, while fully vaccinated Czechs entering Britain from a country that on Tuesday identified 1,108 new cases are no longer required to pay the £2,285 hotel quarantine package (10 days, 11 nights), Britons returning from Colombia are obligated to do so or face a £10,000 fine.

The fact that Colombia is out-performing many South American nations, except Chile, in its vaccine roll-out, with 41.5 million doses in the arms of citizens, residents and undocumented migrants, won’t upend Colombia’s red list status in the eyes of UK officials anytime soon. To put things in perspective: Colombia, with a population of 50.1 million, is ahead of the Czech Republic with 10.7 million inhabitants, and where, only 30% of the adult population is vaccinated, compared to 37%, including youngsters aged 12 or older.

Colombia’s red listing also profoundly affects many Anglo-Colombians and Colombian nationals living in the U.K, given that any essential travel to this country – a death in a family, to name one reason – still requires strict quarantine upon return, and of course, prohibitive hotel stay fees that amount close to COP$12 million pesos.

Such is the predicament of Andres Salgado Regan, a London-based entrepreneur, who shuns the idea of returning to his native Bogotá, unless there are “extraneous” circumstances. “Spending 3,000 Pounds in a three-star Heathrow hotel, with school-type meals, is not an appealing holiday,” said Salgado, adding that the red-list appears to be layered with political overtones. “Broadly speaking, the current government UK Government has a stone-face approach towards open borders, either on the economic front or immigration front. We are seeing this with petrol shortages, and empty shelves in supermarkets.”

The City Paper reached out to U.K Ambassador Colin Martin-Reynolds for a statement regarding Colombia on the red list, but has yet to receive a formal response.

To sign the petition, go this link


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