UK travel ban for South America — including Colombia

By Oli Pritchard January 14, 2021

UK government will stop non-essential travel from South America and Portugal on Friday. Residents and nationals will be allowed to enter.

UK travel ban: No more travelling to the UK from Colombia.
No more travelling to the UK from Colombia. Photo: Artemis Maria Papoutsakis

The UK government today announced a ban on most travellers from South America, as well as Portugal and Cape Verde over concerns of a new Brazilian COVID variant. Portugal was included due to its close connections with Brazil.

The measures will take effect from Friday morning (Jan. 15) and do not affect residents of the UK, whether UK citizens or not. Travellers who have visited Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela in the last 10 days will not be able to enter the UK.

Read all our coverage on the coronavirus in Colombia

UK residents who have visited those countries will have to spend 10 days in isolation upon arrival. Farcically, negative PCR tests won’t be mandatory for entry until Monday. Introduction of compulsory PCR results had initially been planned for tomorrow, but the beleaguered Johnson government was again forced to delay that scheme.

Concern over new COVID variants

Concern over the so-called “Brazilian variant” of COVID prompted Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’ to issue the ban. One fear is that these variants could be more contagious. Another more serious concern is they could render vaccines less effective. 

Related: What is happening with the vaccine in Colombia

Ironically, flights between Brazil and the UK are currently suspended due to Brazilian government concerns over the Kent COVID variant. How much of this is genuine concern and how much is Britain trying to shake off its ‘plague island’ nickname is hard to say. So far, scientists say they don’t believe the Kent strain will interfere with vaccination, but it’s too early to know if the same can be said for other new strains.

Several countries introduced similar bans when the UK and South Africa first announced new strains had emerged.

Expect more PCR tests

Like Colombia, a number of countries now require negative PCR tests from new arrivals. If you are planning to travel, make sure you understand the entry requirements and get the tests you need.

Read also: How to get a coronavirus test in Bogotá

With the incoming Biden administration in the US also likely to move towards asking for negative PCR tests before flying to the country, it looks as though measures worldwide may get stricter. There is also the possibility of flights being cancelled due to lack of passenger numbers.