A stone and a Scottish flag marking the board betw
The border between England and Scotland. (Getty)
  • The United Kingdom banned flights from South Africa while setting up quarantine facilities for its returning residents.
  • That means people who make it to England over the weekend will be told to self-isolate at home, rather than expensive hotels.
  • But Scotland says it will have quarantine facilities ready earlier than England.
  • In both cases, UK nationals will have to pay huge sums for 10 days locked in a hotel room.
  • South Africans who make it to the border will be turned away.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

UK residents who make it back from South Africa during the course of Saturday – somehow – can avoid 10 days of expensive hotel quarantine in England. But if they were to travel to Scotland instead, they'll have no option of at-home quarantine from Saturday instead, that nation has confirmed.

The UK announced a sudden halt on flights from South Africa and its neighbours late on Thursday night. That is due to be a temporary measure, while the country sets up government-approved hotel quarantine facilities for its returning nationals.

For UK residents who were already in the air, or who manage to depart South Africa to arrive in the UK on Saturday, that presents a small window of opportunity: until 04:00 (4am) on Sunday, they will be told to self-isolate at home for 10 days. If the country follows its previous pattern, that group may face checks to see that they comply, and they will also have to pay for two PCR tests, on the second and eighth days after their arrival. But they will avoid having to pay nearly R50,000 for 10 days during which they would be largely locked in a hotel room, with what has historically in some cases been terrible food, nearly no other services, and only short walks outdoors under close supervision.

From 04:00 on Sunday, that kind of hotel stay will be the lot of any UK nationals who arrive back in that country. Non-residents, such as South African citizens, are due to be denied entry to the UK entirely from midnight Friday, with no option of hotel quarantine.

But the window for at-home isolation applies only to England, Scottish authorities confirmed on Friday. In Scotland, hotel quarantine will be mandatory a day earlier, from 04:00 (4am) on Saturday, 27 November – for "any arrivals" from six affected countries: South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, and Botswana.

As in England, those confined to hotel rooms for 10 days will need day two and day eight coronavirus PCR tests, even if they are vaccinated.

That means the window to leave South Africa to isolate at home in Scotland theoretically closes early Friday afternoon. But with direct flights cancelled, travellers would require a connecting flight, making it practically impossible to reach that nation in time. For those going to England, on the other hand, it may be possible – if very hard – to transit via Europe in time.

Under their system of devolved power, England, Scotland, and Wales have taken slightly different approaches to managing the Covid-19 pandemic. Management of their shared United Kingdom border is a reserved matter, so any Scottish rules apply only to those who can cross the UK border first – which non-UK residents may not. 

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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