The Government has acted swiftly to put six African countries on the red list over fears of a new COVID variant.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “UKHSA (UK Health Security Agency) is investigating a new variant. More data is needed but we’re taking precautions now.
“Six African countries will be added to the red list, flights will be temporarily banned and UK travellers must quarantine.”
Flights from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe will be suspended from noon on Friday 26 November until 4am on Sunday 28 November.
The temporary flight ban is to give the Government time to set up quarantine facilities and to ‘reduce the risk of important this new variant under investigation’.
After that, Brits returning from the affected countries will have to book and pay for a Government-approved hotel quarantine facility for 10 days.
Government guidance says that Brits arriving from the six countries between midday on Friday and 4am on Sunday, who have been in the countries within the last 10 days, must quarantine at home for 10 days, take NHS PCR tests on Day 2 and Day 8, even if they already have a lateral flow test booking.
The quarantine rule does not apply to people who have stayed airside and only transited through any of these countries while changing flights.
The FCDO has updated its advice against all but essential travel to South Africa based on the current assessment of COVID-19 risks.
Mr Javid said the new variant, B.1.1.529, which has been identified in South Africa, ‘may be more transmissible’ than the Delta strain and added ‘the vaccines that we currently have may be less effective’.
Anyone arriving from any of the countries added to the red list in the last 10 days is being urged to get tested.
Travel leaders have described the move as a ‘hammer blow’ and one that will create ‘chaos’ and ‘confusion’. Read more here.