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UK Bans Arrivals From 16 Countries Over New Strain

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The British government has announced a ban on new arrivals from all South American countries as well as Cpae Verde and Portugal over fears that a new COVID-19 variant has emerged in Brazil.

The ban will come into effect on Friday January 15 and will apply to all non-resident arrivals. UK residents returning from the affected countries will be permitted to travel but must quarantine for 10 days on arrival.

woman wearing a mask in central london

The ban comes as the government seeks to tighten entry requirements to the UK in order to help control the spread of the virus. However, new rules on COVID-19 testing for all new arrivals due to come into effect on Friday January 15 have been delayed until Monday January 18 so that passengers and travel companies can properly familiarise themselves with the new requirements.

BA planes at Heathrow Terminal 5

How Will The Ban Affect Travelers?

The UK government’s decision to ban arrivals from South America and Portugal represents one of the most significant blanket travel bans imposed by the country since the start of the pandemic.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced the ban on Thursday January 14, outlining that it would extend to all South American countries, covering:  Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela. The ban will also apply to Panama, Cape Verde and Portugal – all countries with important ties to Brazil.

The decision to ban arrivals from these countries has been made due to fears that a new strain of COVID-19 has emerged in Brazil. While it is not yet clear if the new strain is more contagious, more dangerous or more resistant to the vaccine, the discovery of the new strain is concerning, particularly as it has been linked to a surge in cases in Brazil’s Amazonas region. The British government has therefore moved to act quickly to reduce the risk of the new variant spreading to the UK.

woman wearing mask in london

The travel ban will largely impact travelers from South American countries, who until now had been able to travel freely to the UK. Direct flights between the UK and Brazil were halted last month after the new COVID-19 variant was discovered in England, although travel was still possible between the two countries indirectly. However, the new ban means that no travelers from South America will be permitted to enter the UK for an indefinite period.

Travelers have faced constant flight cancelations and travel bans during COVID-19

There will be exemptions for British residents in the affected countries, who will be allowed to return but must self-isolate for 10 days on arrival back in the UK.

The lockdown which has been in place in the UK since January 5 means that few travelers are currently entering or leaving the UK, somewhat reducing the impact of the travel ban. Nevertheless, it represents another barrier for travelers and one of the most significant travel restrictions enacted by the British government since the pandemic began.

view of Big Ben from Westminster Bridge

New Testing Requirement For Arrivals To UK Delayed

The new travel ban comes as the British government has been enacting measures to help control the spread of the virus across the country’s borders. Earlier in January the government announced that all new arrivals to the UK, including both tourists and British residents, would be required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of travel in order to gain entry. The tests may be of the PCR, LAMP or rapid antigen types.

Heathrow Terminal 2

This represented a significant change for travelers to the UK, who have been able to arrive in the country without the need for a test since June 8 2020, provided they completed a passenger locator form and agreed to self-isolate upon arrival. Under the new rules, travelers must take a COVID-19 test before arriving in the UK and still quarantine for 10 days, making travel to the country more difficult.

traveler at airport on phone wearing mask

The introduction of the new testing requirement has been delayed for three days from Friday January 15 until Monday January 18 in response to concerns from travel companies and tourists over the ability to comply with the new rules in time before they come into effect. After this date, anyone entering the country without proof of a negative test could be fined GBP£500.

Travelers may still participate in the Test To Release program, which allows new arrivals to take a PCR test on the fifth day of quarantine and leave self-isolation on confirmation of a negative result. However, there is potential for rules to change again and further new requirements to be introduced over coming weeks and months as the pandemic continues, causing further disruption for travelers.

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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling.  Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories