Latest travel rules for USA, Dubai, South Africa, Thailand and Japan
After a brief hiatus from UK travel restrictions due to Covid-19, the emergence of the Omicron variant has seen a sudden U-turn in recent weeks.
As of 11pm GMT on Friday, December 17, France banned arrivals from the UK, and other European countries including Germany, Italy and Austria have also tightened restrictions.
Further afield, the rules are hugely variable, so make sure you check the requirements of individual countries if you are planning to travel.
The southern African countries where Omicron was first identified have been removed from the red list as of earlier this month, meaning travellers returning to the UK from those countries no longer need to quarantine.
As for the USA, the government has suspended entry from some countries, and it remains possible that they could tighten up measures on UK arrivals, with Joe Biden said “we’ll see” whether a ban will be extended to the UK in light of Omicron.
As of November 29, the US has suspended entry for travellers who have visited Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe within 14 days of entering the US.
However, most fully vaccinated foreign citizens can still enter the USA, provided they get a standard ESTA visa waiver to enter as a visitor.
The US authorities will accept any Covid-19 vaccine approved for emergency use by the World Health Organisation (WHO) or approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), including the AstraZeneca, BIBP/Sinopharm, Covishield, Janssen, Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Sinovac vaccines.
Before boarding a flight to the USA, most passengers – regardless of vaccination status – must show a negative Covid-19 test result taken no more than one day before travel.
Vaccinated passengers do not need to quarantine upon arrival, but are recommended to take a viral test within three to five days of arrival in the US.
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Dubai (United Arab Emirates)
Residents, tourists and visitors travelling from or through the UK and arriving in Dubai must have a negative Covid-19 PCR test within the 72 hours before departure, and present the certificate at check in.
Stringent entry restrictions remain in place upon arrival at all airports in the UAE which may include, but are not limited to, a Health Authority COVID-19 PCR test on arrival, mandatory quarantine period, usually via self-isolation at a private address if suitable, or a hotel or Government facility and follow up testing before you are able to complete quarantine.
Further information about Covid-19 updates is available on the UAE Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updates webpage.
Strict health protocols are in place for international travellers to South Africa.
You will need to produce a paper copy of a negative PCR Covid-19 test to border officials upon arrival, to have taken place no more than 72 hours before your departure. Children under five do not require a PCR test.
Screening processes – including temperature checks – have been introduced at all major ports of entry and departure, including airports, for arrivals, departures and transit passengers.
If you display any Covid-19 –related symptoms on arrival, or declare that you have been in contact with an infected person, you will be expected to take a mandatory COVID-19 test at your own cost.
If the Covid-19 test result is positive, you will need to go into self-isolation for ten days at your own cost.
You will be asked to fill out a health questionnaire on the plane before you enter South Africa.
Amid the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus, Thailand has announced some changes to its inbound quarantine-free travel status for some visitors.
As of midnight on December 22, no new applications for quarantine exemptions under the Thailand Pass scheme will be considered.
Up until now, the scheme was one of the southeast Asian country’s significant moves toward reopening to travel.
The government says this is a temporary suspension rather than a permanent ban, but there’s no date yet for when the hold might be lifted.
Travellers who have already applied and been approved won’t be affected by the new regulations. However, if they haven’t yet entered Thailand they will now be required to take two PCR tests after arriving, one of which will be at a government facility.
Now, travellers to Thailand – except those participating in the Phuket Sandbox program – will be subject to a quarantine of seven to 10 days, depending on their country of origin.
From November 30, foreign nationals, including British nationals, who do not have existing resident status are not permitted to enter Japan for any purpose, other than in exceptional circumstances.
You can find a description of exceptional circumstances on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
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