Travellers arriving from SA can avoid the UK’s R50,000 quarantine bill – if they’re poor enough
- South Africa is back on the United Kingdom’s red list following the discovery of the highly mutated Covid-19 variant, Omicron.
- This red listing only allows British or Irish nationals, or travellers with residence rights, to return to the UK.
- These travellers are required to spend 10 full days in a state-managed quarantine hotel and foot the £2,285 (R49,179) bill before arriving.
- But for those who can prove they’re too poor to pay, costs associated with the quarantine may be covered.
- In most cases, this hardship arrangement offers a repayment plan, but fees could be completely waived in “exceptionally limited circumstances”.
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Travellers returning to the United Kingdom (UK) from South Africa need to endure, and pay for, 10 days in a state-managed quarantine hotel. These expenses could be covered if travellers can prove that they’re too poor to pay.
South Africa is back on the UK’s red list. Only British or Irish nationals, or travellers with residence rights in the UK, are permitted entry. These returning residents will, upon arrival in the UK, be transferred to a quarantine hotel. They’ll spend 10 full days in this state-run facility and undergo further testing for Covid-19.
Travellers will need to book and pay for their stay in a quarantine hotel before leaving for the UK. The package – including transport to and from the hotel, accommodation, food, drink, and Covid-19 tests – costs £2,285 (R49,179) for one adult. Every additional adult or child over the age of 11 in the travelling party is charged at £1,430 (R30,777).
The implementation of these strict and costly quarantine measures comes after the discovery of a highly mutated Covid-19 variant, Omicron. The discovery, announced by South Africa's Department of Health and scientists from the Network for Genomic Surveillance on Thursday, was swiftly followed by international travel restrictions.
And although cases of Omicron have been discovered in several countries across the globe – including South Africa, Germany, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Australia, and the UK – travel restrictions have been focused on Southern African nations.
Co-chair of the African Union's Covid-19 Africa Vaccine Delivery Alliance, Dr Ayoade Alakija, described the travel bans as “discriminatory” and “xenophobia”. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday evening said the restrictions were “unjustified and unfairly discriminate against our country” and called for the bans to be “urgently reversed”.
The travel restrictions come at the worst possible time for South Africa’s embattled tourism sector, which fought hard to have the country removed from the UK’s red list in October. Now, back on the red list and with travellers from South Africa’s biggest source tourism market forced to quarantine upon returning to the UK, optimism surrounding the summer season has faded.
Returning travellers can apply for a “hardship arrangement”, which, if granted, covers the cost of quarantine, either in part or full.
But this option is only afforded to those who believe they “will suffer severe financial hardship” if forced “to pay the full cost of managed quarantine or testing fees”. And more than just believing that hotel quarantine is unaffordable, these travellers will have to prove it.
The UK’s Department of Health and Social Care requires details on the traveller’s income, savings, access to credit or loans, whether family or friends can lend money, and essential living costs.
“We’ll expect you to take all reasonable steps to try to pay for the cost of managed quarantine or testing yourself before you apply for hardship arrangements. This could include exploring whether you could get a loan, including from friends and family, using a credit card or your overdraft,” notes the Department of Health and Social Care.
“You’ll be asked to provide evidence that you’ve explored these options when you apply.”
An application for a “hardship arrangement” only applies to essential travel. This includes returning from work that could not be completed in the UK, education for students coming to study in the UK, urgent medical treatment, and compassionate reasons, like visiting a close family member who is dying or critically ill.
Applications needs to be made at least 14 days before arriving in the UK. Successful applicants will generally be afforded a repayment plan, where travellers pay for the cost of managed quarantine in monthly instalments.
Travellers may be eligible for a fee reduction or fee waiver in “exceptionally limited circumstances”.
Travellers may be eligible for hardship if one or more of the following apply:
- you have an annual household income of under £13,800 [R297,000] before tax
- you or your spouse/civil partner (if not legally separated) have no, or limited, savings
- you have dependents and significant care-related expenses
- you’re on income-related benefits
- you’re above state pension age and are on a fixed income
Travellers who have a pre-tax annual income of more than £50,000 (R1.07 million) or an annual household income of more than £62,400 (R1.34 million) are not eligible for a hardship arrangement.
“You must only apply for hardship arrangements if you believe you are eligible. If you provide false information, or leave out key information when applying, you’ll be committing fraud and may be prosecuted,” says the Department of Health and Social Care.
Travellers without a hardship arrangement, who fail to book and pay for their hotel quarantine before arriving in England, may be fined up to £4,000 [R86,000].
(Compiled by Luke Daniel)
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