The United Kingdom Government is to ban direct flights and travelers from 15 South American countries and Portugal. The ban will come into effect at 04:00 UTC on Friday, January 15, 2021. This ban is in response to the threat posed by a new coronavirus variant in South America and to countries with strong travel links with Brazil.
Ban comes into force early on Friday morning
On the banned list are Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Cape Verde, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Panama, Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores), Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Travelers who have been in or transited through any of these countries in the last 10 days will not be able to enter the United Kingdom.
Excluded from the ban are British and Irish Nationals, or third-country nationals with residence rights in the United Kingdom. They will be allowed to enter but must isolate at their primary residence for 10 days and all household members.
According to the United Kingdom Government, there are currently no direct air links between the United Kingdom and Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Cape Verde, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
Brazil canceled direct flights from the United Kingdom in December in response to a highly transmissible coronavirus strain in England. However, now another strain of coronavirus has been identified in Brazil, leading to this decision. The flagged countries are on the United Kingdom’s radar because of their close links to Brazil. The United Kingdom Government says there are direct air links between the United Kingdom and Chile, Madeira, and the Azores. They will now be closed.
“Travel from Portugal to the UK will also be suspended given its strong travel links with Brazil – acting as another way to reduce the risk of importing infections. However, there is an exemption for haulers traveling from Portugal to allow transport of essential goods,” said United Kingdom Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
Most flights already suspended
The new rule looks like having minimal impact on airlines. They’ve already suspended most of their flights between the flagged countries and the United Kingdom. A check of airline booking aggregators indicates there are no direct flights scheduled in the short term between Joao Paulo II Airport at Ponta Delgada in the Azores and the United Kingdom. There are also no direct flights scheduled over the short term between Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport in Madeira and the United Kingdom. However, online aggregators may not show future charters and non-regular passenger transport flights. Direct flights between Chile and the United Kingdom in the immediate future are also showing as unavailable. South American airline LATAM is offering multi-stop itineraries involving more than one airline.
The new border restrictions in the United Kingdom will mostly impact travelers coming from these 16 countries using multi-stop itineraries. The United Kingdom Government also says that from January 18, all travelers to the United Kingdom from all countries will have to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test result before boarding their plane. British Airways says;
“We will therefore require all customers on flights operating into the United Kingdom, arriving from 04:00 UK time on Monday 18 January 2021, to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of departure.”
Airlines, including LATAM and British Airways, advise impacted travelers to contact the airline directly or their travel agent if these new entry restrictions interfere with booked travel.