British Airways begins cancelling flights to and from SA as UK travel ban takes effect


British Airways (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)

  • British Airways flights to and from South Africa are being cancelled.
  • This comes just hours after the United Kingdom announced that travellers from South Africa would be denied entry from midday Friday.
  • The travel ban, affecting other Southern African nations, is in response to the newly discovered Covid-19 variant B.1.1.529.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

British Airways has started to cancel flights to and from South Africa after the United Kingdom (UK) announced that a travel ban would come into effect on midday Friday.

The discovery of Covid-19 variant B.1.1.529, first announced at a media briefing by South Africa’s Department of Health and scientists from the Network for Genomic Surveillance on Thursday, has the global community on high alert.

The UK, which only removed South Africa from its restrictive red list in October, has been the first to act. Just hours after the details of B.1.1.529, which has more than 30 mutations in the spike protein, were laid bare, the UK announced that from midday Friday, 26 November travellers from South Africa would be denied entry into England.

This ban also applies to non-UK and Irish residents who have been in Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe or Namibia in the previous 10 days. UK and Irish residents arriving from these countries will be required to self-isolate at home for 10 days and take two post-arrival PCR tests.

Passengers arriving from 04:00 on Sunday will be required to book and pay for a government-approved hotel quarantine facility for 10 days.

“We’re taking this early precautionary action now to protect the progress made across the country and will continue to keep a close eye on the situation as we continue into the winter,” said UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

British Airways confirmed on Friday morning that it had already started cancelling flights to and from South Africa. The airline, which only recently resumed services to South Africa and had hoped to up its frequency during the summer season, said it was in the process of contacting affected ticketholders.

“We are aware that the UK government has issued a temporary ban on flights between the UK and South Africa from midday on 26 November,” noted a statement on British Airways’ website on Friday morning.

“We will be working closely with the government and staying close to any developments. If you’re due to travel between now and Monday, 29 November, we will be in touch to advise and update you about any new information we have received. We will also update this page regularly with any new information.”

Virgin Atlantic has also confirmed flight cancellations to and from South Africa and has already started notifying its ticketholders.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

(Compiled by Luke Daniel)

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