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UK adds Nigeria to red list and expands COVID testing requirements

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • All international travellers must now show a negative COVID test result (LFD or PCR) within 48 hours of departure for the UK
  • The British government has also added Nigeria to its red list of countries from which to travel to the UK is effectively banned

The UK has introduced additional testing measures for all international travellers, and has expanded its “red list” of countries from which travel is essentially banned (except for returning British citizens or permanent residents).

In the wake of the discovery and rapid spread of the Omicron variant, the government has determined that – as of 4:00 am, 7 December – all international arrivals of 12 years of age or older “will need to show a negative pre-departure test (LFD or PCR) as close as possible to departure and not more than 48 hours before to slow the importation of the new variant.”

This new testing requirement follows an earlier move to strengthen post-arrival testing as of 30 November which required all international arrivals to also “take a PCR test by the end of the second day after arrival and self-isolate until they receive a negative result.”

These pre-arrival and post-arrival testing provisions are now in effect for all international arrivals in the UK.

The red list

The UK also moved this week to expand its red list of countries by adding Nigeria to the list of the now-11 countries – all in Africa – from which travel to the four countries of the United Kingdom is effectively banned.

British citizens or permanent residents may continue to travel from red list countries, but must undertake a period of managed quarantine and additional testing on arrival. Foreign travellers from red list countries are effectively banned from entering the UK.

Nigeria was added to list as of 4:00 am Monday 6 December.

The move is significant for a number of reasons, not least of which is that Nigeria is an important sending market for UK higher education. As we noted recently, Nigerian students have been a significant driver of the overall growth in the number of UK study visas issued this year. Between September 2019 and September 2021, the number of visas issued to Nigerian students rose by nearly 400% with roughly 37,000 visas issued for Nigerian students through September of this year.

“Analysis by the [UK Health Security Agency] suggests there is strong indication of Omicron presence in Nigeria, and several cases identified in the UK are linked to travel from Nigeria,” explains an official government release. “The country also has very strong travel links with South Africa, for example Nigeria is the second most popular flight destination from Johannesburg.”

While the UK is hardly alone among major study destination in limiting travel from African countries this month, the move has been roundly criticised within the UK and abroad. UN Secretary General António Guterres has characterised bans on African travellers as “travel apartheid” adding that not only are they “deeply unfair and punitive, they are ineffective”.

For additional background, please see:

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