The United Kingdom updated its travel red list on November 26th, 2021, to add 6 southern African countries that had or were at higher risk of having cases of Omicron coronavirus variant due to their proximity to compromised areas.

Those countries were South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, and Namibia. Now, the UK government has added Angola, Malawi, Zambia, and Mozambique to the travel red list. 

The list will be revised in 3 weeks. Until then, people coming from these countries will have to meet the following requirements in order to enter the UK, even if they’re fully vaccinated or if they’ve only been there on a transit stop in which they momentarily got off from the transport:

  • Taking a COVID-19 test up to 3 days before traveling to the UK. Only children below 11 years old are exempt from this test. 
  • Completing and submitting a passenger locator form online within 48 hours before arriving in the UK.
  • Booking a quarantine hotel package for a 10 days-long isolation period including 2 COVID-19 diagnostic tests (the traveler will have to take them on day 2 and day 8 of the isolation period). 

    Travel quarantine is required both for the traveler and any family or friend accompanying him or her, even children. Only children below 4 years old are exempt from the tests but from the travel quarantine —unless there are medical or compassionate reasons to avoid or interrupt the isolation. Compassionate reasons are normally related to having to visit a dying relative, attending a funeral of a close family member, etc. The application for the exemption must be submitted at least two weeks before traveling to the UK so that circumstances and proofs can be evaluated. 

    As for medical reasons, they’ll only be valid if the quarantine hotel can’t provide appropriate care to someone chronically ill, and staying in the facility would be detrimental to the traveler’s health. 

The UK government has recently been approving new hotel quarantine facilities to make travel quarantine easier for people coming from red list countries. Before this, British nationals arriving in the UK from problematic areas due to the Omicron variant had to isolate themselves at home. 

The Omicron variant first appeared in South Africa, Botswana, and Hong Kong around November 22nd, 2021. At the time, there were no Omicron cases registered in the UK. The first cases of the variant were reported on November 27th. Since then, the UK government’s efforts to prevent the spread of Omicron have amplified. 

So far, the variant is present in six continents of the world, with cases registered in the United States, Canada, Brazil, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Israel, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, India, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Réunion Island (near Madagascar), Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, and Botswana. 

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