Flights from Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini and Namibia will be banned, after the six countries were placed under England’s red list travel restrictions, after scientists raised the alarm over what is feared to be the worst Covid-19 variant yet identified.
This means passengers arriving from 4am Sunday in England will be required to book and pay for a government-approved hotel quarantine facility for 10 days.
British nationals arriving from these six countries between midday Friday and 4am Sunday, and 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.
Direct flights from the six countries will be banned from midday Friday until hotel quarantine is up and running from 4am Sunday 28 November.
One expert described the variant, known as B.1.1.529, as “the worst one we’ve seen so far”, and there is concern it has the potential to evade immunity.
No cases have been confirmed in the UK.
Only 59 confirmed cases have been identified in South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana so far.
UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid said that scientists were “deeply concerned” about the new variant but more needed to be learned about it.
But he said the variant has a significant number of mutations, “perhaps double the number of mutations that we have seen in the Delta variant”.
He added: “And that would suggest that it may well be more transmissible and the current vaccines that we have may well be less effective.”
He said adding the six countries to the red list was about “being cautious and taking action and trying to protect. as best we can, our borders”.
From 12:00 on Friday non-UK and Irish residents will be banned from entering England if they have been in the six countries in the past 10 days.