Ten months after it first locked down, the UK has – finally – significantly beefed up its borders.
First, all the UK’s ‘travel corridors’ were removed – with all visitors told to provide a negative test result on arrival. Then travel was banned altogether from ‘high-risk’ regions battling infectious new strains. And then, earlier this month, the country announced that travellers from the worst-affected regions would soon have to quarantine in hotels.
Now, with concern growing over the virulence of new variants emerging around the world, travel is banned altogether from 33 countries. The UAE, Burundi and Rwanda last week became the latest additions to the UK’s ‘red list’ – meaning travel from these destinations is forbidden for anyone except British and Irish citizens plus official UK residents. All other travellers will now be turned away at the border.
Direct flights from the UAE have also been cancelled, so anyone who is allowed to travel will have to take a connecting flight. On arrival, they must also provide a negative test result from within the past 72 hours, along with a ‘passenger locator form’ – or face two, separate £500 fines.
For the moment, all travellers from these destinations must self-isolate for ten days at home. The ‘test to release’ scheme, which allows you to test again and leave quarantine after five days, does not apply to ‘red list’ countries.
Last week the British health secretary, Matt Hancock, confirmed that those travellers who are able to return from ‘red list’ countries will have to quarantine in government-provided hotels at a cost of £1,750 per head – covering food, accommodation, transport and testing. If you are travelling as a family and plan to stay in the same room, a second adult will cost £650 and children aged five to twelve £325 each.
As of today (February 15), all arrivals in England, regardless of whether they are having to quarantine at home or in a hotel, will also have to take tests on days two and eight after they arrive. These will be available to book on a dedicated website.
If either of the tests come back positive, then the traveller will have to quarantine for a further ten days from that date. Anyone who fails to take either test could be fined up to £2,000, while those who fail to quarantine in a hotel could be fined up to £10,000.
Here is the full ‘red list’ of countries currently subject to the UK’s travel ban:
Democratic Republic of Congo
Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores)
United Arab Emirates (UAE)
The UK’s Department for Transport last week said that any travel exemptions that currently exist – such as for business trips – do not apply to these ‘red list’ countries. In other words: no travel is allowed whatsoever, for any reason.
And unfortunately, with worrying new strains of the virus continuing to circulate around the world, the ‘red list’ of banned nationalities is only likely to grow over the coming weeks. So watch this space – and keep dreaming of a time when we’ll be able to get out and explore the world again.