23 Mar 2021
COVID-19: new virus variantsA number of new COVID-19 virus variants have been identified across the world
- This updates the news item of 29 January 2021
A number of new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes coronavirus disease (COVID-19), have been identified, originating from different countries across the world [1,2].
Surveillance globally continues to identify changes in the virus; this is to be expected and most new variants are not generally a cause for concern [2, 3].
However, it is the variants that increase transmission from person to person or can evade the host immune response that are considered variants of concern, resulting in increased cases and pressure on health care systems globally [2, 4, 5].
Advice for travellers
If a new variant of concern is identified, you may experience disruption to your journey or plans at short notice such as:
- Immediate travel restrictions, including flight cancellations and suspension of entry into the UK. Check with your airline or travel provider before setting out on your journey and also prior to your return to the UK. See the current ‘red list’ travel ban countries on GOV.UK. If you have been in or through any of the travel ban countries in the previous 10 days, you will be refused entry to the UK. If you are a British or Irish National, or you have residence rights in the UK, you will be able to enter. However, you must quarantine in a government approved hotel for 10 days.
- Not being eligible for the Test to Release scheme on your return.
- Closure of land borders to limit the spread of variants to neighbouring countries.
Travellers are recommended to check their travel insurance policy and to be prepared if time abroad is unexpectedly extended due to the implementation of new restrictions.
- GAVI; The Vaccine Alliance. What do the new COVID-19 variants mean for vaccine development?
- TravelHealthPro: Medicines and Travel
- World Health Organization: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Virus Evolution
- Public Health England: Confirmed cases of COVID-19 variants identified in UK
- Public Health England: What do we know about the new COVID-19 variants?
- World Health Organization. Disease Outbreak News; SARS-CoV-2 Variants. 31 December 2020. [Accessed 23 March 2021]
- Public Health England, What do we know about the new COVID-19 variants, Updated 19 March 2021. [Accessed 23 March 2021]
- GOV.UK Confirmed cases of COVID-19 variants identified in UK. Updated 16 March 2021 [Accessed 23 March 2021]
- ECDC. Rapid Risk Assessment: SARS-CoV-2 - increased circulation of variants of concern and vaccine rollout in the EU/EEA, 14th update. 15 February 2021. [Accessed 23 March 2021]
- World Health Organization. News; Global scientists double down on SARS-CoV-2 variants research at WHO-hosted forum. [Accessed 23 March 2021]