The UK Government has announced the addition of four more countries to the travel red list, as concerns grow over the omicron Covid variant, first detected in South Africa.
Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia will join the six countries placed on the revived red list on Friday November 26 – South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) and Lesotho. All flights from the 10 countries are now banned.
Arrivals from any of these countries before 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 10 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.
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 the African countries.
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 (from 4am on November 28)
- South Africa
- Eswatini (formerly Swaziland)