Eleven countries have been added to a UK travel ban list after a new mutant strain of Covid-19 was found in South Africa.
Amid fears over the new strain, the South Africa travel ban has been extended to any southern African country, including Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Eswatini, Zambia, Malawi, Lesotho, Mozambique and Angola — as well as Seychelles and Mauritius, the Government revealed today.
Meanwhile Israel (and Jerusalem) are to be removed from a list of travel corridors for England following “data showing a significant increase in confirmed cases” in the country, the Department for Transport said.
Brits returning from banned countries will need to quarantine for 10 days from 4am on Saturday, January 9.
British and Irish Nationals, longer-term visa holders and permanent residents will still be able to enter the UK from banned countries but will have to enter a mandatory 10-day period of isolation – which includes all members of their household.
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These measures will be in place for an initial period of two weeks.
A Department for Transport statement reads: “British and Irish Nationals, longer-term visa holders and permanent residents who have travelled to all countries in southern Africa, Seychelles and Mauritius in the last 10 days will have to self-isolate along with their household.
“The measures will be in place for an initial period of 2 weeks while we review the scientific data and alternative ways to protect the UK and our partners in Africa.
It added: “Mauritius, Seychelles and Botswana also removed from travel corridor list as part of tighter restrictions to slow the spread of the variant prevalent in South Africa.”
A spokesperson claims the Government has “responded swiftly to new evidence showing an urgent need to halt travel from all southern African countries to help prevent the spread of a new coronavirus variant identified in South Africa.”
Entry into England will be banned to those who have travelled from or through any southern African country in the last 10 days, including Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Eswatini, Zambia, Malawi, Lesotho, Mozambique and Angola – as well as Seychelles and Mauritius. This does not include British and Irish Nationals, longer-term visa holders and permanent residents, who will be able to enter but are required to self-isolate for 10 days on arrival along with their household.
“The government has therefore also removed Botswana, Seychelles and Mauritius from the travel corridor list, with the changes coming into place from 4am on Saturday 9 January 2021,” the spokesperson added.
Those who wish to cut their quarantine can opt to pay for a test after five days of self-isolation. If this comes back negative, they can be released.
England is under a third national lockdown which includes a ban on international travel (there are some legally permitted exemptions but a holiday doesn’t fall under this). Meanwhile, Scotland and Wales are also under national lockdowns which include bans on international travel.
The Government spokesperson added: “The move, in addition to the travel ban imposed on South Africa on 23 December 2020, follows new data on the steep rise in incidence of the new variant, that has vastly increased the risk of community transmission between 9 other southern African countries as well as the Seychelles and Mauritius, which both have strong travel links with South Africa. Urgent restrictions are therefore now needed to prevent the spread of this strain in the UK.
“The measures will be in place for an initial period of 2 weeks while the scientific data and alternative ways to protect the UK and our partners in Africa are reviewed.
“Any exemptions usually in place – including for those related to employment – will not apply and those British nationals arriving into England from the other southern African countries, Seychelles and Mauritius after 4am on Saturday 9 January cannot be released from self-isolation through Test to Release. People sharing a household with anyone self-isolating from these countries will also have to self-isolate for 10 days.
“Ministers have also removed Israel (and Jerusalem) from the government’s travel corridor list, as data from the Joint Biosecurity Centre and Public Health England has indicated a significant change in both the level and pace of confirmed cases of coronavirus. The decision to remove Israel (and Jerusalem) has been made following a sustained and accelerating increase in COVID-19 cases per 100,000 of the population, similar in trajectory to the UK.
“National restrictions for England introduced on 6 January 2021 remain in place meaning everyone must stay at home unless travelling for a very limited set of reasons, including for work. This means people can no longer travel to take holidays or travel internationally unless for work or other legally permitted reasons. Those in breach of the rules face penalties starting at £200, rising to a maximum of £6,400.”
Travel firms and airlines have been cancelling packages and flights following the new restrictions.
TUI has cancelled all holidays during England’s lockdown (holidays departing from Scotland or Wales are cancelled until January 31), while easyJet and Ryanair have both said they are drastically reducing their flight schedules.
We’ve got a guide on what to do if you had a holiday booked for January/February including your rights to getting your money back.
It’s worth noting that travel corridors are not the same thing as travel advice. During the pandemic the two have tended to go hand in hand, with the Foreign Office updating its advice in line with any updates.
However, in December this changed for the first time when the Canary Islands were removed from the travel corridors, but the FCDO did not advise against travel to the hotspots.
Global restrictions continue to apply during the pandemic. You should always check the latest FCDO advice before planning, booking or going on a trip. (This also includes information on any entry requirements such as quarantine rules both sides or a need to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test).