The discovery of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 on November 24 has led to travel bans around the world for the entire southern region of Africa. The United States, Canada, the European Union and the United Kingdom swiftly acted to shut down travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi. Other countries, such as Japan and Israel, have implemented strict restrictions as well.
While the travel bans differ on the requirements for citizens and residents returning to their home countries from southern Africa, they all ban other travelers from the listed countries. All of the bans will be reassessed at regular intervals and may be adjusted or lifted, depending on how this variant spreads and how well current vaccines protect against it.
Hunters with booked trips to Africa should keep in mind that the keys to traveling during a worldwide pandemic are patience and flexibility, remaining informed and the willingness to use a backup plan. They will need to monitor the situation closely as their travel dates approach and be prepared to postpone trips. Flights from Southern Africa to many European destinations have been suspended, which means many hunters will need to change flight arrangements. But they should be careful cancelling flights outright or rebooking through different transiting countries. Hunters should review the cancellation policies of their airlines, outfitters and travel insurance policies. Also, those traveling with guns should check the firearm carriage policies of chosen airlines and any requirements for transit permits in countries they are transiting. Using a travel agent who specializes in hunting travel can make this less stressful. SCI members with questions or in need of assistance can contact the SCI Hunter Information Service/Hunter Hotline for help.
Here is a summary of the restrictions on travel from southern Africa at this time:
European Union (EU)
The EU has suspended passenger flights from the affected African countries and is asking member states to discourage travel to these countries by their residents as of November 26. The temporary emergency restrictions will remain in place until experts of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control determine the threat of the Omicron variant is under control. See the EU announcement here. Each member state in the EU implements the recommendations of the European Council along with its own regulations. Hunters traveling through an EU country should check the travel restrictions for that country as specifics for travel bans, quarantines and testing requirements can differ greatly. Check individual destinations at the Re-open Europe website. Check on transiting requirements at the IATA website.
In Canada, foreign nationals who were in the southern African region within the last 14 days before arriving in Canada will not be allowed into the country. Canadian citizens and permanent residents who have been to one of the previously mentioned countries will be subject to enhanced testing, screening and quarantine measures. These include obtaining a negative COVID-19 test in a third country within 72 hours of continuing home to Canada. Upon arrival in Canada, regardless of vaccination status, citizens/residents are subject to immediate arrival testing and must complete a test on day 8 after arrival and quarantine for 14 days. Those arriving by air must stay in a designated quarantine facility to await their arrival test result and cannot continue travel home until their quarantine plan is approved and/or they get a negative arrival test result. See all of the requirements regarding travelers returning from southern Africa here.
United Kingdom (UK)
As of November 28, the UK has returned to its Red List all the southern African countries mentioned above along with Angola and Zambia. Only citizens or residents of the UK (England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales) will be allowed entry after being in a Red List country within 10 days of arrival in the UK. Regardless of vaccination status, returning citizens and residents must take a COVID-19 test within three days of traveling to England and pre-book a 10-day quarantine hotel package, including two additional COVID-19 tests. Travelers must also complete a passenger locator form. Upon arriving in England, they must quarantine in a managed hotel and take a COVID-19 test on day two and on day eight after arrival. Requirements vary somewhat for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
United States (US)
Foreign travelers and noncitizens who were physically present within any of the mentioned countries in southern Africa during the 14-day period preceding their entry to the US will not be allowed to enter the country. US residents and citizens are exempt but must follow the new requirements that took effect November 8. Those requirements allow fully vaccinated US citizens and residents to reenter the US with a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of arrival. All unvaccinated Americans returning to the US must have a negative COVID-19 test within one day of departing for home and show proof of having purchased a viral test that they must take upon arrival in the US. The ban on travelers from southern Africa will be reviewed every 30 days by the Secretary of Health and Human Services who will recommend whether President Biden should continue, modify or terminate the restrictions.