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Six countries added to Covid-19 red list

Employment / 26 November 2021

17.12.2021: By way of update, since the original article was published the following developments have occurred:

  • All countries have now been removed from the red list
  • All individuals entering the UK are required to receive a negative Covid-19 test in the two days before they travel

Organisations should still familiarise themselves with the actions we have recommended as many remain relevant and given the pace things have changed, further restrictions may be introduced again at short notice. 



With effect from midday on Friday 26 November, the following countries have been added to the UK’s red list*:

—  Botswana

—  Eswatini

—  Lesotho

—  Namibia

—  South Africa

—  Zimbabwe

What is the red list? 
Restrictions are placed on individuals travelling to the UK where they have been in a red list country in the 10 days before they arrive in the UK.

Entry to the UK is restricted to the following people only:

—  British or Irish Nationals

—  Individuals with residence rights in the UK

Individuals without residence rights who have been in a red list country in the 10 days before entering the UK will be unable to travel here.  This will primarily affect business visitors and tourists.

For those able to enter the UK, they will be required to follow strict testing and quarantine rules.

How will this work in practice?
Recognising the short notice given, the quarantine rules will be introduced in two stages based upon the date of arrival:

Individuals who arrive between 12.00 midday on Friday 26 November and 4am on Sunday 28 November will need to undertake the following steps:

—  Complete the passenger locator form ahead of travel

—  Complete 10 days of quarantine at home or another suitable alternative

—  Take a day 2 and day 8 PCR tests (free of charge)

Individuals arriving from 4am on Sunday 28 November will need to do the following:

—  Complete a negative Covid-19 test in the 72 hours before arrival in the UK

—  Quarantine for 10 full days in a managed quarantine hotel

—  Take day 2 and day 8 PCR tests

These rules apply regardless of an individual’s vaccination status.

The quarantine package costs £2,285 for a single adult with additional costs for family members travelling together.  Individuals can be fined up to £4,000 where this is not booked ahead of travel in addition to paying the quarantine package fee.

Are there any exceptions?
A list of exempted categories of job can be found here.  The specific rules vary by job, vaccination status and the devolved power where the work will be taking place.

Should employers wish to make use of any exemption they should ensure that the individual falls within the relevant category and where required obtain the necessary written confirmation from the government ahead of travel.

What should organisations consider?

—  Impact on start dates for new hires – it is possible that individuals may need to delay their start date if they are unable to start work from their quarantine hotel, for example where their physical presence is needed to conduct the work.

—  Existing employees – employees returning from holiday or business may be similarly impacted by their inability to physically return to work for at least 10 days.

—  Who bears the cost?  – organisations will want to consider who should pay for the quarantine hotel and implement the appropriate policies and processes to facilitate this, for example where there is a business need for an individual to commence work as soon as possible, or the initial travel to a red list country was company driven.

—  Do any exemptions apply? – organisations should be aware of the exemptions and put in place robust safeguards for assessing their relevance.

—  Review travel data – understanding who is impacted and having a clear communication strategy will be important for both business continuity and employee experience purposes.  

—  Review policies and communications on outbound travel – following the loosening of travel restrictions over the last few months it may be necessary to revisit your business travel processes to minimise the risk of disruption.

What next? 
Ministers have reacted quickly to the identification of a new variant of Covid-19.  It is possible further countries will be added at short notice should this variant spread to other locations.

Organisations should therefore keep updated on developments, review travel data and make contingency plans against potential disruption to their operations should more countries be added.

*note that each of the devolved powers operates its own rules and there may be some differences in approach depending on the country of entry. This note focuses on the rules for England.  


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This update is for general purposes and guidance only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. You should seek legal advice before relying on its content. This update relates to the prevailing circumstances at the date of its original publication and may not have been updated to reflect subsequent developments. If you have general queries about our updates, please email:

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