The UK government’s travel ban has been extended to the UAE, Burundi and Rwanda in order to prevent the importation of a new COVID-19 variant found in South Africa.

Travel bans extended and hotel quarantine for travellers introduced in UK

The UK government has announced that it has taken the urgent decision to ban travel to the UK from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Burundi and Rwanda in order to prevent the spread of the new variant, which was originally identified in South Africa, into the UK.

From 29 January 2021, passengers who have been in or transited through the United Arab Emirates, Burundi and Rwanda in the last 10 days will no longer be granted access to the UK. There will also be a flight ban on direct passenger flights from the UAE.

This does not include British and Irish nationals, or third-country nationals with residence rights in the UK, who will be able to enter the UK but are required to self-isolate for 10 days at home, along with their household. Passengers returning from these countries cannot be released from self-isolation through the Test to Release scheme. Any exemptions usually in place will not apply, including for business travel.

The decision to ban travel from these destinations follows the discovery of a new coronavirus variant, first identified in South Africa, that may have spread to other countries, including the UAE, Burundi and Rwanda.

British nationals currently in the UAE should make use of the commercial options available if they wish to return to the UK. Indirect commercial routes that will enable British and Irish nationals and residents to return to the UK will continue to operate.

British nationals should check Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) travel advice and follow local guidance. The FCDO will continue to offer tailored consular assistance to British nationals in need of advice on a 24/7 basis.

The action follows new measures announced by the UK government to minimise travel across international borders and reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, including managed isolation in hotels and the need to declare a reason for travel. 

Commenting on the Prime Minister’s announcement that arrivals from 22 COVID-19 hotspots will have to quarantine in hotels, the Airport Operators Association‘s Chief Executive, Karen Dee, said: “It is welcome that the Prime Minister has listened to our concerns and ensured that the new measures only apply to a limited number of countries. However, strict travel restrictions were only introduced recently, and it remains unclear what additional public health benefit mandatory hotel quarantine would have.”

“It is vital that the government now sets when and how we can ease all these measures safely and provide people with reassurance that travel will be possible again in the future. Aviation will be vital for the UK’s recovery, and for the UK government’s ambitions for a globally trading Britain. None of that is possible if the government keeps laying blow after blow on an industry already reeling from the worst year in aviation history, with areas relying on regional airports dealt the toughest hand.”

“The Australian and New Zealand governments have backed up their government-ordered aviation shutdowns with more than a billion dollars in combined aviation-specific support. It’s time that the UK government backed their tough stance on border with similar financial support for the industry hit hardest by that stance.”