The government is taking decisive precautionary action against a new COVID-19 variant by introducing travel restrictions on arrivals from South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Namibia from midday Friday 26 November. This precautionary move comes as Variant B.1.1.529 is declared a Variant under Investigation (VuI) by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). The variant includes a large number of spike protein mutations as well as mutations in other parts of the viral genome. These are potentially biologically significant mutations which may change the behaviour of the virus with regards to vaccines, treatments and transmissibility. More investigation is required.
From midday on Friday 26 November, non-UK and Irish residents who have been in these countries in the previous 10 days will be refused entry into England. This does not apply to those who have stayed airside and only transited through any of these countries while changing flights.
UK and Irish residents arriving between midday Friday 26 November and 4am Sunday 28 November from these six countries will be required to self-isolate at home for 10 days. They must take PCR tests on Day 2 and Day 8 post-arrival. These can be NHS PCR tests and passengers should take them even if they have already booked or taken their lateral flow test.
UK and Irish residents arriving from 4am Sunday must isolate in a government-approved facility for 10 days. During their stay, they will be required to take a coronavirus test on day 2 and day 8.
A temporary ban on commercial and private planes travelling from the six countries will also come into force at midday on Friday until 4am Sunday to reduce the risk of importing this new variant under investigation while hotel quarantine is stood up. This excludes cargo and freight without passengers.
The UK government thanks the government of South Africa for its surveillance of this variant and its transparency. Meanwhile the UK Health and Security Agency continues to monitor the situation closely, in partnership with scientific and public health organisations across the world, and we will offer to work collaboratively with the sixcountries that have been currently placed on the UK red list to understand the virus and possible mitigations.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords