Travel bans will be imposed on visitors to England from four new “red list” countries, starting next Friday.
The list of banned nations will reach 39 when the Philippines, Pakistan, Kenya, and Bangladesh are added from 4am on April 9.
The ban means most non-UK nationals or residents will be banned completely from entering England if they have been in those countries in the last 10 days.
British, Irish and third-country nationals with residence rights will be allowed to enter – but only through hotel quarantine.
That means paying £1,750 to be held in isolation for 10 days in a government-appointed facility.
They will have to take two tests, on or before day 2 and on or after day 8, as well as a test within 72 hours of coming to the UK.
But they will not be allowed to shorten their quarantine if they test negative.
The measures have been brought in as part of an effort to prevent the South African and Brazilian Covid variants – which may resist the vaccine – taking hold in the UK.
The focus on countries beyond Europe comes despite a surge in cases on the Continent.
Yet the Department for Transport insisted today: “So far, surveillance has found that few cases of the South Africa variant have been identified as being imported from Europe, with most coming from other parts of the world.”
It comes as Boris Johnson prepares to announce the first details of how a summer travel system could work on Easter Monday.
The Prime Minister’s roadmap says international holidays and trips to see family could be allowed from May 17 at the earliest.
But reports suggest holidaymakers may only have a tight selection of countries to choose from, at least in the first few months – including the US, Maldives and Israel.
Foreign getaway destinations look set to be ranked under a traffic light system, with fewer curbs tied to the places boasting the lowest coronavirus rates and high vaccination take-up.
Countries will be graded green, amber or red according to the success of their inoculation schemes and keeping case rates low., according to reports.
Hesitancy towards the vaccine across parts of mainland Europe may mean that favoured continental destinations among British holidaymakers such as France, Spain and Greece are deemed more high-risk than the likes of the US and Israel, where vaccination rates are good.
Sources said a country’s vaccination rate would “play a big part”, as well as its level of “variants of concern”.
However, Boris Johnson has stopped short of adding France to the formal ‘red list’ for the moment due to the crucial role of cross-Channel freight.
Instead, all truck drivers staying in the country for longer than two days will be required to take a rapid Covid test before the end of day 2 – then every three days after that.
They will be forced to self-isolate in their cabs for the duration of their time in England, “leaving only for specific reasons such as to buy food, use a toilet or undertake limited exercise, or get a COVID-19 test, among other reasons.”
There are now 39 countries on England’s red list:
- Bangladesh (will be added to the list 4am Friday 9 April)
- Cape Verde
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- French Guiana
- Kenya (will be added to the list 4am Friday 9 April)
- Pakistan (will be added to the list 4am Friday 9 April)
- Philippines (will be added to the list 4am Friday 9 April)
- South Africa
- United Arab Emirates (UAE)