Bad news for South African travellers – UK ‘red list’ travel ban stays in place

The UK government has opted to keep South Africa on its red list for travel – holding in place incredibly restrictive and expensive quarantine conditions for local travellers.

Under the UK’s travel rules, travellers who have been in a country or territory on the red list in the last 10 days will only be allowed to enter the UK if they are British or Irish nationals or have residence rights in the UK.

These travellers are subject to rigorous Covid testing and have to quarantine at a designated hotel at their own cost. A 10-day package costs £2,285 for one adult (R46,000), plus £1,430 for each person over 11. Children aged 5 to 11 will bump the total up by £325 each.

While analysts speculated that South Africa would be removed from the red list following petitions from South Africans and appeals from the South African government and local branches of multinational corporations, this was not the case.

The UK’s Department for Transport and Health and Social Care published the updated lists this week, with South Africa still listed under red. Only eight countries were removed from the list, including Egypt and Kenya.

The departments also announced that the UK will be doing away with its ‘traffic light’ system of red, amber and green countries, adopting a simpler system from 4 October. Under the new system, there will only be a red list of countries and a set of rules for the rest of the world to follow, based on their vaccination status.

However, the new rules do not recognise South Africa’s vaccination programme. Even if the country were not on the red list, travellers from South Africa – vaccinated or not – would still be subject to tighter restrictions.

The new rules are outlined below:


Travel from the rest of the world if you are fully vaccinated

From Monday 4 October, if travellers are not coming from a red list country and have been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days, they will be able to enter the country.

This has to happen under an approved vaccination program in the UK, Europe, US or UK vaccine programme overseas; this includes:

  • A full course of the Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna or Janssen vaccines from a relevant public health body in Australia, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bahrain, Brunei, Canada, Dominica, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, New Zealand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea or Taiwan;
  • Mixing between two-dose vaccines (Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna) in this list is also recognised
  • Being under a formally approved Covid-19 vaccine clinical trial in the US, Canada and Australia and have proof of participation (digital or paper-based) from a public health body.

Travellers must:

  • Book and pay for a day 2 Covid-19 test – to be taken after arrival in England;
  • Complete the passenger locator form – any time in the 48 hours before they arrive in England;
  • Take a Covid-19 test on or before day 2 after they arrive in England;

Travellers don’t need to:

  • Take a pre-departure test;
  • Take a day 8 Covid-19 test;
  • Quarantine at home or in the place they are staying for 10 days after they arrive in England.

The UK government stressed that travellers must be able to prove that they have been fully vaccinated (plus 14 days) with a document (digital or paper-based) from a national or state-level public health body that includes, as a minimum:

  • Forename and surname(s);
  • Date of birth;
  • Vaccine brand and manufacturer;
  • Date of vaccination for every dose;
  • Country or territory of vaccination and/or certificate issuer.

If a public health body document does not include all of these, travellers must follow the non-vaccinated rules. If not, they may be denied boarding.


Travel from the rest of the world if you are not fully vaccinated

If travellers are not coming from a red list country but do not meet the requirements above, they must follow different rules.

Before they travel to England, they must:

  • Take a pre-departure Covid-19 test – to be taken in the 3 days before they travel to England;
  • Book and pay for day 2 and day 8 Covid-19 tests – to be taken after arrival in England;
  • Complete the passenger locator form – any time in the 48 hours before they arrive in England.

After they arrive in England, they must:

  • Quarantine at home or in the place they are staying for 10 days;
  • Take a Covid-19 test on or before day 2 and on or after day 8;
  • They may be able to end quarantine early if they pay for a private Covid-19 test through the Test to Release scheme.

Travel from red list countries

Travel from red list countries remains the same, whether fully vaccinated or not.

Travellers who have been in a country or territory on the red list in the last 10 days will only be allowed to enter the UK if they are British or Irish nationals or have residence rights in the UK.

Before they travel to England, they must:

  • Take a pre-departure Covid-19 test – to be taken in the 3 days before they travel to England;
  • Book a quarantine hotel package, including 2 Covid-19 tests;
  • Complete the passenger locator form – any time in the 48 hours before they arrive in England;
  • When they arrive in England, they must quarantine in a managed hotel, including 2 Covid-19 tests.

Read: Government in talks to have South Africa removed from the UK’s red list

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Bad news for South African travellers – UK ‘red list’ travel ban stays in place