UK prime minister Boris Johnson is expected to introduce a strict hotel quarantine system for passengers arriving from high-risk countries on Wednesday (27 January).
A person familiar with the matter told Bloomberg that the move is aimed at curbing the spread of new variants of coronavirus that could prove resistant to vaccines.
It is expected to apply to arrivals from countries with new forms of the virus, such as South Africa and Brazil.
The decision was made by ministers at a meeting Tuesday night, where they discussed a range of options for tightening border controls. It came as the UK recorded more than 100,000 deaths from coronavirus, the first European country to reach the milestone.
The Telegraph reported that the quarantine will cost travellers up to £1,500 (R31,000) for 10 days self-isolating with meals served in their rooms and supervised by private security guards.
All 30 countries on the list, bar Portugal and Cape Verde, are in or around South Africa and South America, where three Covid variants have emerged, in addition to the one that emerged in Kent.
The move comes on top of rules requiring all travellers to have negative Covid test results from within 72 hours of departure and to quarantine.
All passengers’ test certificates and locator forms are now being checked on arrival, leading to queues at Heathrow.
United States ban
US president Joe Biden introduced new travel restrictions for the United States on Monday (25 Janaury), including a ban on travel to and from South Africa.
A senior US health official told Reuters that the ban would prevent most non-US citizens from entry if they have recently been in South Africa, due to the new variant of Covid-19 which has been identified in the country.
Biden on Monday will also reimpose an entry ban on nearly all non-US travellers who have been in Brazil, the United Kingdom, Ireland and 26 countries in Europe that allow travel across open borders.
“We are adding South Africa to the restricted list because of the concerning variant present that has already spread beyond South Africa,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s principal deputy director, in an interview Sunday.
In a national address on 11 January, president Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed that South Africa’s second coronavirus wave was being driven by this new variant.
Studies have since shown that the variant is around 50% more infectious and transmissible, but there has not been any evidence to indicate that it is more severe or more deadly.