The UK has imposed a travel ban for those arriving from South Africa just before Christmas, effective as of 9 AM GMT, Thursday 24th December 2020, and is the latest in a series of travel restrictions involving the UK. The ban comes after a more transmissible strain of Covid-19 was found in South Africa, and is thought to be behind the country’s dramatic surge in cases. Here’s a closer look at what this means for travel between the two countries, Covid-19 in South Africa and the wider implications that this may have for travel.
The Travel Ban – What Travelers Should Know
The ban has been imposed following the discovery of a new strain of Covid-19 that is more easily spread than the common virus variant. Whilst the UK has also reported a new, rapidly-spreading version of the virus, the South African one is not related to this one, and so the ban has been put into place to minimize the risk of it spreading to the UK.
The ban means that anyone arriving in the UK from South Africa after 9 AM on December 24th will not be permitted to enter the country. There are exceptions to the rule; British and Irish nationals arriving after this time will be allowed to enter, as will visa holders and permanent residents.
As the UK does not currently have a travel corridor with South Africa, any traveler who manages to enter the UK from South Africa will have to self-isolate upon arrival for a period of 10 days, as will anybody who shares a household with them. British and Irish travelers, visa holders and permanent residents must complete a passenger locator form upon arrival in the UK in order to track the spread of the virus should any local outbreaks occur.
South Africa’s New Virus Variant – Why It’s Harming Travel
The virus variant that has been detected is not only more transmissible than regular strains of Covid-19, it is also feared that it spreads more quickly amongst younger people, a demographic who up to now have enjoyed more of a resistance to the virus. South Africa’s Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has said that the virus has been linked with increased rates of severe illness in young people and that scientists are currently working on finding out more about it.
According to the British Health Secretary Matt Hancock, it is more transmissible than the strain that has seen many countries close their borders to the UK, and cases have already been detected in the UK. South Africa’s daily Covid-19 case numbers have risen once more towards the 10,000 figure, a figure that has largely been attributed to the new strain, and so the UK has joined the like of Germany, Israel and Saudi Arabia in banning travel to avoid a repeat of the situation in their own borders.
Future Travel Implications
Like any virus, Covid-19 is bound to mutate over time, and different strains can be expected to crop up from time to time in different locations. By imposing travel bans on regions with more virulent virus strains, it’s an effective way to isolate the strains and prevent them from harming the Covid-19-fighting efforts of other countries.
Whilst the UK’s strain is causing problems for travelers, the good news is that experts don’t expect it to be more severe or to be resistant to the vaccines that have been developed, and so whilst it may affect travel plans on the short-term, the long-term goal of getting travel back to a semblance of normality shouldn’t be affected.
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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