The UK government has modified the list of red countries to add South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, and Namibia to the list. This means that people coming to the UK from these countries will have stricter rules to follow before and after their arrival.

From Friday 26 November 2021 until Sunday 28 November 2021, there won’t be direct flights connecting these countries with the UK because the UK government will be revising and approving new hotel quarantine facilities.

Until that time, British and Irish citizens who visited South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, or Namibia in the past 10 days must isolate themselves at home for 10 days after arrival and obligatorily take NHS PCR tests on day 2 and day 8. It doesn’t matter if they’ve already booked and/or taken the lateral flow test —they still have to take the NHS PCR tests.

After Sunday 28 November 2021, all travelers must isolate themselves at a managed hotel quarantine facility approved by the government alone or with the people they’ve traveled with. To do this, they must book and pay for the service before arriving in England. The hotel quarantine lasts 10 full days and requires a COVID-19 diagnostic test on day 2 and day 8 as well.

From November 28th, 2021, non-UK and Irish residents coming from South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, and Namibia will be denied entry into the UK except for those who simply had a layover on them.

Not only commercial but also private planes will be temporarily banned due to the sanitary risks of the new variant detected in those countries. Cargo and freight planes are the only exceptions to the prohibition.

The new COVID-19 variant is called Variant B.1.1.529. Although its effects on the human body remain unknown, the variant contains radical mutations in the virus genome, which may imply an abnormal response of the virus to vaccines and treatments. It could be more infectious, too.

Nothing is certain as the variant is still under investigation, but the UK Health Security Agency has acted in advance to avoid undoing progress in the area’s fight against COVID-19.

Currently, there are no registered cases of variant B.1.1.529 in the UK and the British authorities want to keep it that way in order to protect public health.

The first genomes of this variant appeared in the international GISAID database on 22 November 2021. There are currently 58 cases in South Africa, 6 in Botswana, and 2 in Hong Kong. There are no cases registered in Lesotho,  Eswatini, Zimbabwe, and Namibia, but because the spread of the new variant is still unknown, the UK government has decided to implement new restrictions to the whole of southern Africa as a preventive measure.

As always, failing to comply with these restrictions or other UK health and border requirements may imply delays, fines, or denied boarding for the traveler.

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