UK bans flights from South Africa as New York to check on all British arrivals

Visitors who have travelled from or through South Africa will be denied entry to England and all direct flights banned

A ban on all direct flights from South Africa to England came into force on Christmas Eve morning, while New York authorities announced they would visit arrivals from the UK to check they were quarantining, amid the spread of new variants of coronavirus in the UK and South Africa.

The UK health secretary, Matt Hancock, said the new mutation in South Africa was “highly concerning”, and was believed to be even more transmissible than the variant in the south-east of England that led to the introduction of tier 4 restrictions.


From 9am on 24 December, visitors who have travelled from or through South Africa will be denied entry to England, and all direct flights will be banned. British and Irish nationals, visa holders and permanent residents will be able to return to the UK, but will be forced to self-isolate for 10 days.

The usual exemptions, including travel for work purposes, will also not apply, but the ban does not include freight and cargo without passengers.

South Africa’s variant has already been detected in Britons who have returned from the country in recent weeks. The mutation is thought to be responsible for a surge in new cases in the country.

In New York City, the mayor, Bill de Blasio, announced that authorities would personally visit all travellers from the UK to check that they are observing quarantine rules.

The US will only allow travellers from the UK under certain circumstances, for example Americans stranded abroad, family members or limited categories of visas holders.

“We’re going to have sheriff’s deputies go to the home or hotel of every single traveller coming in from the UK,” he told a press conference on Wednesday.

Travel restrictions on transport from the UK remain in many countries.

On Wednesday, France eased its two-day travel ban on transport from the UK, but travellers are required to show proof of a negative coronavirus test taken within the previous 72 hours.

Singapore banned arrivals from the UK from Wednesday night, even for those journeys already in transit, following a similar move by Hong Kong.

After an initial ban, flights to Italy resumed on Wednesday, but only for those with residency in Italy or for absolutely necessary travel.

The German government has banned all travel from the UK until 6 January, but Germans stranded in the UK can apply for exemptions to return from 1 January, while Ireland has banned all flights from the UK until New Year’s Day except for essential supply chain workers.

Spanish nationals and residents can return to Spain, but all other travel from the UK is restricted until 5 January.

Restrictions also remain in place for travel to countries including India, Sweden, Bulgaria, Norway, Latvia, Romania and Turkey.


Molly Blackall

The GuardianTramp

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