A ban on commercial aircraft travelling into England from Oman, Ethiopia and Qatar will come into force on Friday, March 19 at 04h00.
The British government says this is to reduce the risk of importing variants of concern. This excludes cargo and freight without passengers.
Additionally, Ethiopia and Qatar have been added to England’s red list with effect from 04h00 on Friday March 19. This means anyone who has spent any time (including transiting passengers) in those two countries in the ten days prior to boarding an aircraft for England, will be refused entry. The British government says this is “to protect the country against new variants of coronavirus (COVID-19), at a critical time for the vaccine programme.”
Simultaneously, Oman and Somalia have entered the red list.
The British government says that British nationals currently in the countries on the red list should make use of the commercial options available if they wish to return to England. Commercial routes that will enable British and Irish nationals and residents to return to England continue to operate.
The website www.gov.uk says the move will help to reduce the risk of new variants – such as those first identified in South Africa and Brazil – entering England.
Only British and Irish citizens, or those with residence rights (including long-term visa holders), will be allowed to enter and will be compelled to stay in a government-approved facility for 10 days. During their stay, they will be required to take a coronavirus test on day 2 and day 8.
The website explains that the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) produces risk assessments of the spread of variants of concern internationally. These risk assessments cover a range of factors for each country including:
- assessment of surveillance and sequencing capability
- available surveillance and genome sequencing data
- evidence of in-country community transmission of COVID-19 variants
- evidence of exportation of new variants to the UK or other countries
- travel connectivity with the UK
The website says the government continues to work with the hospitality sector to ensure it is ready to meet any increased demand for quarantine faciilities with over 58 000 rooms on standby.