The UK’s high-risk “red list” for international travel has gained an extra member.
Anyone who has been in Nigeria in the 10 days before arriving in the UK is obliged to go into hotel quarantine at their own expense.
The west African nation, which is by far the most populous in the continent, has joined 10 southern African nations.
The changes are in response to concerns about the spread of the omicron variant of coronavirus. It follows 21 cases of omicron reported in England that were linked to travel from Nigeria.
The health secretary, Sajid Javid, tweeted: “In light of the most recent data we are taking further action to slow the incursion of the omicron variant.
These are the key questions and answers.
What is the red list?
The UK has a de facto “traffic light” system for international arrivals. Ireland is green, with no testing or quarantine required; most of the rest of the world is amber, with multiple tests and some self-isolation obligatory; and the high-risk red list.
What are the rules?
If you have been in a country on the red list in the 10 days before the day you arrive in the UK, you will only be allowed to enter only if you are British or Irish, or have residence rights in the UK.
You must also book a “managed quarantine” package for hotel quarantine for 11 nights. This costs £2,285 for a solo traveller and £4,625 for a family of four with children aged five to 11. It covers hotel accommodation, transport to the hotel (which could be many miles from the arrival location) and PCR tests on days two and eight of the stay.
The government says: “If you have not arranged a quarantine package before arriving in England, you can be fined up to £4,000. You will still have to pay for your quarantine package on arrival.”
Can I leave my hotel room?
Not generally, though you may be able to get permission for a short spell of outdoor exercise, typically in the hotel car park.
Are there enough hotel quarantine rooms?
The government says it has “contracted several new hotels to enter service this week, in response to the likely numbers of UK residents who will want to travel from Nigeria before Christmas”.
It says it is “working at pace to expand Managed Quarantine Service capacity, but passengers are advised that hotel bookings may be limited as new hotels are onboarded”.
But travellers will not be allowed to travel to the UK from a red list country without a hotel quarantine booking. So they may need to remain in Nigeria – or other red list country – until a room becomes available.
Any ways to get around the red list?
Some travellers will, legally and responsibly, travel from Nigeria or any of the southern African nation to a third country and remain there for 10 full days before continuing to the UK.
Egypt is a possibility for British travellers, who can get a visa on arrival for US25 (£19).
From Lagos in Nigeria, Egyptair has a daily flight to Cairo, with fares at around £300 one way.
From Johannesburg, an Ethiopian Airlines flight via Addis Ababa to Cairo costs about the same.
For admission to Egypt, the Foreign Office says that NHS proof of vaccination is acceptable in lieu of a test, but adds: “Passengers arriving from countries where C19 variants of concern have been identified may be required to undertake a rapid Covid-19 test (ID Now) on arrival, which if positive will lead to a subsequent PCR test to determine if isolation at a government hospital is necessary.
Once in Egypt the traveller can visit the Pyramids, the antiquities of Nile or the Red Sea tourist resorts around Hurghada or Sharm El Sheikh – which have inexpensive budget flights to the UK.
Total costs are likely to be far lower than the price of hotel quarantine.
A total of 10 full days must be spent away from red list countries to avoid hotel quarantine. After that, normal rules for travel to the UK – with a pre-departure test, a post-arrival PCR and a completed passenger locator form – must be followed.