UK travel from South Africa
(Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images)
  • The UK has announced stricter travel rules with harsher punishments for non-compliance, which will come into effect on Monday 15 February.
  • This extends to travellers from South Africa, who will have to foot the bill for their mandatory quarantine stay at around R3,500 a day.
  • UK nationals or residents, returning from South Africa, who lie about where they’re coming from or where they’ve been will be fined £10,000 [R203,199] and or up to ten years in prison.
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The United Kingdom has tightened its travel regulations for ‘red list’ countries – which includes South Africa – by imposing mandatory quarantine for returning residents. The costs associated with the ten-day quarantine will need to be covered by the traveller, and misleading authorities to avoid self-isolation can lead to serious jailtime.

There are only two types of travellers currently permitted to enter the UK from South Africa and 32 other countries confined to the ‘red list’. British and Irish Nationals, or third-country nationals with residence rights in the UK, will be allowed to return but must submit to a series of stringent Covid-19 protocols.

From Monday 15 February, all residents returning to the UK from South Africa must present a negative Covid-19 test result, obtained within 72 hours of arrival, prior to boarding. Even with a negative PCR test result, UK nationals and residents will be forced to endure a ten-day quarantine period at a state-run hotel.

This mandatory stay will need to be paid for by the traveller prior to departure. The UK’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock has detailed aspects of this mandatory “quarantine package” which must be purchased via a dedicated online portal and includes:

  • Assigned government transportation (from the airport to the quarantine site)
  • Accommodation in a government-approved facility
  • Food and drinks (while quarantined)
  • Two follow-up Covid-19 tests (on day two and day eight of the ten-day quarantine)
  • Security and welfare (observation by healthcare professionals)

This package will cost £1,750 (R35,540) per person. Hancock confirmed that 16 hotels, comprising of 4,600 rooms, had been contracted as quarantine sites. These quarantine hotels will be situated near key transit areas in Heathrow, Gatwick, London City, Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeen.

UK airport hotel chain Best Western confirmed that it had offered to assist with these quarantine packages but has yet to receive a detailed proposal from the government.

And for those travellers hoping to avoid the mandatory quarantine period, and the costs associated with it, by misleading government officials about their pervious travel itineraries, a host of hefty penalties await.

“Anyone attempting to conceal that they have travelled in a ‘red list’ country on their [passenger locator] form could face a £10,000 [R203,199] fine or prosecution and up to ten years in prison,” explained the UK’s department of health and social care.

This applies to any person who has travelled from or through South Africa in the last ten days. The passenger locator form, which needs to be completed before boarding, requires travellers to list their passport details, travel information, Covid-19 test results and address of self-isolation in the UK. Falsifying any of these details is a criminal offence, warns the department.

Travellers who abscond from a quarantine facility, without the health department’s approval or permission, could face a fine of between £5,000 (R101,680) and £10,000 (R203,199). Refusing to undergo the first test while in quarantine will result in a £1,000 (R20,336) penalty and rejecting the second test will be an additional £2,000 (R40,672) penalty.

Failure to comply with any of the UK’s quarantine measures will extended the mandatory isolation period.

Travellers from South Africa will have a hard time finding direct flights to the UK, following British Airways’ suspension of flights, which has since been extended to mid-April. Connecting flights are currently offered by Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines and Air France.

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