Fear of the South African variant is showing signs in the UK, and all direct flights to the UAE – and two African countries – are now suspended, effectively shutting the world’s busiest international route, between Dubai and London. The three destinations ‘banned’ by the UK join a long list of severed aviation ties with countries suspected of spreading the South African or Brazilian variants.
Worries over the spread of the vaccine-resistant COVID-19 variant first identified in South Africa caused the UK to suspend all direct flights to the United Arab Emirates, first and foremost the London-Dubai route, considered the busiest route in the world, effective 29 January 2021 at 1pm.
Furthermore, the UK has also suspended direct flights to two African countries, Rwanda and Burundi, due to the same fear of the South African variant. According to Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, “This means people who have been in or transited through these countries will be denied entry, except British, Irish and third country nationals with residence rights who must self-isolate for ten days at home.”
The new restriction comes after the January 18 announcement that all passengers entering the UK, including British nationals, must present a negative corona test performed within 72 hours of arrival.
The UAE, Rwanda and Burundi join a long list of countries published by the UK Department of Transport, mainly those where the South African and Brazilian variants are likely to spread, as well as countries that have strong aviation ties with South Africa and Brazil.
It is worth noting that the US, France and Israel are not on the list, although both COVID-19 variants have also been detected there. Portugal is the only European country on the UK list, because of its strong ties with Brazil, as Secretary Shapps has said earlier this month.
The list of banned countries also includes a few with no direct flights to the UK, such as Venezuela, Seychelles and the Democratic Republic of Congo.