A ban on travel to England from South Africa has been extended to other nearby nations.
Entry will be banned to those who have travelled from or through any southern African country in the last 10 days, including Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Eswatini, Zambia, Malawi, Lesotho, Mozambique and Angola as well as Seychelles and Mauritius.
The government has also removed Botswana, Seychelles and Mauritius from the travel corridors list, with the changes coming into place from 4am on Saturday.
The Department for Transport said it was responding swiftly to new evidence showing an “urgent need” to halt travel from all southern African countries to help prevent the spread of a new Covid-19 variant identified in South Africa.
This does not include British and Irish nationals, longer-term visa holders and permanent residents, who will be able to enter but are required to to self-isolate for 10 days on arrival along with their household.
The move, in addition to a travel ban imposed on South Africa on December 23, follows new data on the steep rise in incidence of the new variant.
This has “vastly increased” the risk of community transmission between nine other southern African countries as well as the Seychelles and Mauritius, which both have strong travel links with South Africa.
“Urgent restrictions are therefore now needed to prevent the spread of this strain in the UK,” the DoT said.
The measures will be in place for an initial period of two weeks while the scientific data and alternative ways to protect the UK and our partners in Africa are reviewed.
The DoT added: “Any exemptions usually in place – including for those related to employment – will not apply and those British nationals arriving into England from the other southern African countries, Seychelles and Mauritius after 4am on Saturday 9 January cannot be released from self-isolation through test to release.
“People sharing a household with anyone self-isolating from these countries will also have to self-isolate for 10 days.
Ministers have also removed Israel from the government’s travel corridor list, as data from the Joint Biosecurity Centre and Public Health England has indicated a “significant change” in both the level and pace of confirmed cases of the virus.
“The decision to remove Israel has been made following a sustained and accelerating increase in Covid-19 cases per 100,000 of the population, similar in trajectory to the UK,” the DoT added.
National lockdown restrictions in England from January 6 remain in place meaning everyone must stay at home unless travelling for a very limited set of reasons, including for work.
“This means people can no longer travel to take holidays or travel internationally unless for work or other legally permitted reasons,” the DoT said.
Those in breach of the rules face penalties starting at £200, rising to a maximum of £6,400.
People in all countries affected by the travel ban are encouraged to follow the local rules and check Foreign Office advice for further information.
All travellers, including those from exempt destinations, will still be required to show a complete passenger locator form on arrival into the UK unless they fall into a small group of exemptions.