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Earlier this evening, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid, announced that flights to England from six southern African countries will be temporarily suspended from 12pm GMT tomorrow (Friday 26th November) due to a new Covid ‘variant of concern’.
The countries added to the Red List are South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini. Travellers arriving in the UK via third countries will have to pay for mandatory hotel quarantine.
COVID-19 UPDATE:@UKHSA is investigating a new variant. More data is needed but we’re taking precautions now.
From noon tomorrow six African countries will be added to the red list, flights will be temporarily banned, and UK travellers must quarantine.
— Sajid Javid (@sajidjavid) November 25, 2021
Obviously this is very worrying – and hugely inconvenient for people who had travel planned to/from the region over Christmas.
As far as I understand it (and if any readers have more specialist insight, please correct me in the comments), preliminary research about how effective the new variant is at evading the existing vaccines may take a few weeks. The question from a travel perspective is therefore, what happens if other countries don’t also suspend flights to southern Africa very soon?
Logic would suggest that we would see the rapid reintroduction of the Amber List and more countries added to the Red List too. Basically, even if this all blows over relatively quickly from a health point of view, it could still have a heavy impact on travel over the next month or two. Plan accordingly.