Update (1625 November 26): The Netherlands, Italy, the Czech Republic and Germany have now imposed restrictions on flights and travelers from several southern African countries.
The Czech Republic will ban anyone who has spent more than 12 hours in South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia from entering the country from Saturday.
Meanwhile, Germany will only allow citizens of South Africa to enter the country from tonight.
Update (1430 November 26): The European Commission has recommended that EU member states suspend flights to and from southern African countries to prevent the spread of the new variant of Covid-19, now named B.1.1.529.
France has joined with the UK in banning flights from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini, although its restrictions are currently only planned for for at least 48 hours. Anyone in France who has traveled to one of these countries in the last 14 days has been asked to declare their trip to the authorities and to take a PCR test as soon as possible.
The World Health Organization, which is holding a meeting to determine whether it considers the new strain of Covid-19 to be a “variant of concern,” has warned world leaders against imposing travel restrictions, advising instead governments to take a ârisk-based, science-based approachâ.
As of noon on November 26, six southern African countries will be added to the UK’s travel red list due to concerns over a new variant of Covid-19 identified in the region.
The change – which applies to South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia – means that from 1200 today, non-British and Irish residents who have stayed in these countries in the previous 10 days will be refused entry to England. This does not apply to those who stayed airside and only transited through one of those countries by changing flights, according to the Department of Transport.
UK nationals arriving between 12 noon today and 4 a.m. on November 28 and who have been in the listed countries in the past 10 days must self-quarantine at home for 10 days and take NHS PCR tests on days two and three. eight after they arrive, even though they already have a lateral flow test reservation.
Then, starting at 4 a.m. on November 28, all UK and Irish residents arriving from those countries will be required to book and pay for a government-approved hotel quarantine facility for 10 days, regardless of their vaccination status.
A temporary ban on commercial and private planes from the six countries will also come into effect from noon today until November 28 at 4:00 am “to reduce the risk of importing this new variant under investigation while the hotels quarantine is lifted “.
In response to the flight ban, British Airways tweeted that it would contact affected customers on its flights to South Africa. Virgin Atlantic, which also operates services to South Africa, said it “would be in touch with options” for affected customers.
The government said it decided to take action after the UK Health Security Agency said it was investigating a new variant of Covid-19 identified in southern Africa. Health officials say the new strain may contain “significant” mutations that “alter the behavior of the virus with regard to vaccines, treatments and transmissibility.”
No case of the variant has yet been identified in the UK.
Sajid Javid, UK Secretary for Health and Social Affairs, said: âWe are taking precautionary measures to protect public health and the progress of our vaccine rollout at a critical time as we head into winter, and we are closely monitoring our situation. “
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps added: “We have always kept public safety our number one priority, which is why we have kept measures in place which allow us to protect the UK from the new variants. “
The UK government moved away from its old traffic light system for international travel in October, now only a red list for high-risk countries. All countries were removed from this list earlier this month, but the government said it would keep the option of adding destinations to the list if the coronavirus situation in those places changes.