In a shock update last night, the government announced that South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe would be put back on the high-risk list from 12pm today.
A temporary flight ban has been imposed over the weekend while hotel quarantine facilities are prepared.
From 4am on Sunday 28 November, British and Irish citizens or residents arriving from those countries will have to pay to enter hotel quarantine for 10 days; all other travellers are banned from entering the UK from midday today.
British nationals arriving from the six countries between midday Friday and 4am Sunday, or who have been in these countries within the last 10 days, must quarantine at home for 10 days and take NHS PCR tests on Day 2 and Day 8, even if they already have a lateral flow test booking.
It is yet another in a long line of devastating blows for the travel industry.
Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of the Advantage Travel Partnership, said: “We all accept the government must make decisions in the interest of public health.
“However, some 20 months into the crisis, and six weeks after taking South Africa and its neighbours off the red list, it just feels like deja vu.
“The communication process is a shambles – relying on a tweet from the health secretary is no way to update the public.”
Follow all the latest updates below:
South Africa ‘disappointed’ by move to red list, says tourism minister
Following the news that the UK government has placed South Africa back on the red list, South Africa’s tourism minister, Lindiwe Sisulu, said:
Helen Coffey26 November 2021 16:29
Brussels recommends suspending all flights between EU and countries with new Covid variant
The European Union should suspend “all flights” with countries which have declared they have the new Covid variant, European Council president Ursula von der Leyen has said.
Her comments came as alarm grew over the spread of the new variant.
She added that news of the latest Covid variant was “very concerning”.
Helen Coffey26 November 2021 15:26
Passengers stuck on plane in Amsterdam after travel bans imposed mid-flight
Passengers on a flight that originated in Johannesburg, South Africa, are currently being held on the tarmac at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam after new travel restrictions were imposed while the service was mid-flight.
New York Times reporter Stephanie Nolen tweeted: “So I’m in my 3d hour on a tarmac at Schipol [sic].
“While my flight from Jo’burg was somewhere over Chad, Europe went into variant panic; by the time we landed, we weren’t allowed off the plane.
“They won’t even let a catering truck bring us water.”
Helen Coffey26 November 2021 15:07
Travel insurance still valid for red list countries
Specialist travel insurer battleface has confirmed its policies are still valid for the six southern African countries moved unexpectedly back onto the UK’s travel red list as of today.
Katie Crowe, director of communications, said: “There will still be travellers, who for family or other reasons still need to travel to the Southern African region. Battleface travel insurance still provides valid travel insurance to protect them.
“Our products protect travellers regardless of traffic light colour and FCDO advisories and are available and accessible for all. In addition, travellers currently in the region can purchase a policy on the move.”
As well as adding six countries to the UK’s red list, the UK government has announced that flights from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini will be banned until noon on Sunday so that there is time to reinstate the hotel quarantine system.
The Foreign Office has also advised against all but essential travel to these countries based on concerns around a new Covid-19 variant.
Helen Coffey26 November 2021 14:44
Latest red list flight data
Between 15 November and 31 December, only one of the six countries now on the UK’s red list had direct flights to the UK, according to the latest flight data from aviation analytics firm Cirium. This was South Africa, which had flights to Johannesburg and Cape Town from the UK.
From 15-28 November:
- There were a total of 28 flights scheduled UK to/from Cape Town and 7,652 seats (flights operated by British Airways).
- There were a total of 54 flights scheduled UK to/from Johannesburg and 14,472 seats (this includes both ways and operated by British Airways and Virgin Atlantic).
- In total there were 82 flights and 22,124 seats (both directions combined).
For December 2021:
- There are a total of 120 flights scheduled UK to/from Cape Town and 32,637 seats (flights operated by British Airways and Virgin Atlantic).
- There are a total of 169 flights scheduled UK to/from Johannesburg and 46,662 seats (flights operated by British Airways and Virgin Atlantic).
- In total there are 289 flights and 79,299 seats (both directions combined).
Helen Coffey26 November 2021 14:18
Israel on ‘verge of state of emergency’ over new coronavirus variant
Israel is on the “verge of a state of emergency”, the country’s prime minister warned after a worrying new coronavirus variant was detected in at least three people.
The Middle Eastern country on Friday imposed a travel ban covering most of Africa after detecting its first case of the Nu variant, also known as B1.1.529, in a traveller who had returned from Malawi.
Scientists are concerned about the new variant, which could be more contagious than the Delta strain.
The health ministry said the traveller and two other suspected cases, all of whom had been vaccinated, had been placed in isolation.
Chiara Giordano26 November 2021 13:54
What are the rules around travelling to Portugal?
Portugal has tightened up some of its rules for travellers following a rise in coronavirus cases.
“It doesn’t matter how successful the vaccination was, we must be aware we are entering a phase of greater risk,” Prime Minister Antonio Costa said on 25 November.
“We have seen significant growth (in cases) in the EU and Portugal is not an island.”
But what are the entry restrictions for tourists, and what public health measures are in place once in the country?
Read our full explainer on the new rules:
Helen Coffey26 November 2021 13:35
What are your rights if you’ve booked a Christmas holiday in southern Africa?
At present airlines and holiday companies are trying to assess the situation and decide how to respond. In the absence of further information, the assumption will be that December trips to the six countries will go ahead as planned.
If your departure is cancelled – as some are likely to be – you are entitled to a full cash refund.
But if you have booked separate elements of the trip (for example car rental, accommodation or a safari) then the supplier is not obliged to offer you your money back. They can take the view: the product you booked is available, and the fact that you can’t get here isn’t our problem.
Simon Calder26 November 2021 13:25
Countries tighten travel restrictions amid virus variant concerns
The UK isn’t the only country to impose strict travel restrictions on southern African nations over concerns about a new coronavirus variant.
Italy is banning entry to people who have visited the six African countries – South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe – in the last 14 days, while Israel is banning citizens from travelling to southern Africa.
European Commissioner Ursula von der Leyen has said the EU is looking at freezing air travel from the “high risk” nations.
Singapore is restricting arrivals, while Japan has tightened its entry requirements for visitors.
India has issued an advisory to test and screen all arrivals from South Africa and other countries of concern; Germany will declare South Africa a “virus variant area”.
Helen Coffey26 November 2021 12:25
Portugal to demand negative Covid test from all travellers
Portugal is tightening its restrictions for travellers, announcing that even vaccinated arrivals will need to present a negative Covid test to enter the country.
From 1 December, airlines will be fined €20,000 (£16,927) if they transport any passenger who doesn’t have proof of a negative Covid-19 test result, including those who are double jabbed.
PCR and rapid antigen tests are both admissible; the former must be taken within the 72 hours prior to departure, the latter within 48 hours.
Fully vaccinated tourists must also present proof of a negative coronavirus test to enter indoor facilities including nightclubs and bars, and to attend large events.
The EU digital certificate will be required in order for visitors to stay in hotels, go to the gym or eat indoors at the country’s restaurants.
Helen Coffey26 November 2021 11:55