Travellers from South Africa face jail time and fines for breaking UK’s new Covid-19 travel rules

UK Health secretary Matt Hancock has detailed new travel restrictions that will be introduced to try stop Covid-19 variants from entering England.

Briefing British parliament on Tuesday (9 February), Hancock said that this will include a 10-year sentence for incoming passengers who lie about where they have travelled when abroad.

The Guardian reported that 33 high-risk countries are currently on the UK’s ‘red list’ – including South Africa, where a second major Covid-19 variant was first discovered.

Under the new restrictions, the UK will also introduce a strict hotel quarantine system for passengers arriving from these high-risk countries.

The quarantine will cost travellers up to £1,750 (R35,670) for 10 days self-isolating with meals served in their rooms.

Hancock said the government had contracted 16 hotels with 4,600 rooms initially for those entering the country – a number that would be expanded soon.

“People will need to remain in their rooms and of course will not be allowed to mix with other guests and there will be visible security in place to ensure compliance alongside necessary support, so even as we protect public health we can look after the people in our care. People who flout these rules are putting us all at risk.

“Passenger carriers will have a duty in law to make sure that passengers have signed up for these new arrangements before they travel, and will be fined if they don’t, and we will be putting in place tough fines for people who don’t comply,” Hancock said.

He also announced a £1,000 fine for international arrivals who failed to take a mandatory Covid-19 test and a £5,000 penalty rising to £10,000 for anyone failing to quarantine in their designated hotel.

A number of other countries have also introduced restrictions or cancelled flights from South Africa due to concerns around the South African Coivd-19 variant.

This week Spain’s Health minister Carolina Darias announced that the country is extending the restriction of flights from the United Kingdom and Brazil, and for travellers with a stopover coming from South Africa.

Airline Emirates has also announced the postponement of flights to and from the country until at least the end of February.

Read: South Africa’s national state of disaster, one year later

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Travellers from South Africa face jail time and fines for breaking UK’s new Covid-19 travel rules