The state of travel in the United Kingdom
After five months of total isolation driven by a massive resurgence in Covid-19 cases during December, the UK’s slowly opening its doors to travellers from abroad. Now, the country’s set a ‘traffic light’ system in place to determine which countries get the green light for travel to their shores.
South Africa remains in the no-go zone along with 39 other countries. There’s a total ban on travel to and from these nations, with a few exceptions made for British nationals. British residents who wish to return to the UK after visiting South Africa may do so under stringent health protocols. These include a mandatory quarantine period of two weeks in a state-monitored hotel.
While international airlines remain grounded in South Africa, British Airways flight bookings for domestic travel remain unaffected by the UK travel bans. With their ‘book now and change later’ flexibility policy allowing passengers to change destinations, dates or even cancel their flights, British Airways demonstrates confidence in a return to South African skies.
Those travelling from the 12 countries listed in the green zone must still present a negative Covid test for travel to the UK and must take another test two days after arrival.
There are also 170 countries listed on the amber list. Travel to and from these nations is strongly discouraged but travellers can arrive in the UK as long as they present a negative Covid test and subject themselves to a 10-day quarantine at home or wherever they’re staying during their visit.
They’re also required to undergo another two tests during the quarantine phase.
On the downside, some countries like France have reinstituted their travel bans for people travelling from the UK as a third wave of coronavirus looms for Europe.
The future of flights to the UK
These restrictions have put paid to British Airways and Virgin Atlantic’s early plans to resume their South African operations in June, but there is light on the horizon.
Instead of imposing a month to three months ban as in the past, this time, the airlines expect to end this suspension within two to three weeks.
Before the pandemic struck, British Airways flights took off multiple times a day from London’s Heathrow Airport to Johannesburg and Cape Town. That is until the total suspension of flights on 24 December 2020.
Since then, the ban on flights has been suspended numerous times, and only now shows signs of abating. British Airways has reiterated its intention to resume flights to and from Johannesburg during the month of June, with bookings open for flights for 17 June.
The situation remains tentative though as British health officials keep a close eye on the developing situation both at home and abroad.
Riding out the third wave
Now, with South Africa once again increasing its restrictions due to a suspected third wave of the virus, it remains to be seen what the future of travel holds.
The best-case scenario is that swift action by nations and the roll out of vaccines across the world will see a return to normality sooner rather than later.