The UK Government has announced the addition of six countries to the travel red list, from noon on Friday, as concerns grow over a new Covid-19 variant detected in South Africa.
Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, said the new variant “may be more transmissible” than the delta strain and added “the vaccines that we currently have may be less effective”.
Earlier this month, on November 1, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced the red list would be temporarily scrapped, but kept ”in place as a precautionary measure to protect public health.” At the last travel update, on November 18, it was announced no amendments would be made – however just a week later the Government has announced last-minute changes impacting six African countries.
When the red list returns, at noon on Friday November 26, all flights will be temporarily banned from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) and Lesotho.
Arrivals from any of these counties between midday Friday 26 November and 4am Sunday November 28 must follow special guidance and isolate at home for 10 days – free PCR tests will be provided to take during quarantine on day two and day eight.
Then, from 4am on Sunday November 28 arrivals into the UK from the six nations will be forced to stay in a quarantine hotel for 10 days, at a price of up to £2,285, including two Covid tests. The rate for one additional adult, or a child aged 12 or over, is £1,430; while children aged between 5–11 are £325 each. Those in financial hardship have been able to avoid the large fee.
South Africa has criticised Britain’s “rushed” decision to place the country on the reimposed red list.
Since February 15, passengers who have tried to cover up their arrival from a red list country have also faced jail sentences of up to 10 years, whilst anyone who has tried to avoid mandatory hotel quarantine has faced fines of up to £10,000. Britain returns to be one of the few countries in the world with such a restrictive policy in place – Grant Shapps previously described the scheme as “as the UK’s first line of defence.”
It has been reported, that in the future, anyone returning from a red list country could be allowed to quarantine at home for 10 days, irrespective of whether or not they are fully jabbed, rather than a hotel – this has not been announced and might not be enacted until the New Year, however.
A fine continues to enforce the testing system for other arrivals from non-red list countries. Travellers arriving from any country could be fined £500 if they do not have a valid test result.
The six hotel quarantine red list countries
- South Africa – from 12pm November 26
- Botswana – from 12pm November 26
- Namibia – from 12pm November 26
- Zimbabwe – from 12pm November 26
- Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) – from 12pm November 26
- Lesotho – from 12pm November 26