"From 9am Thursday 24 December 2020, visitors arriving into England who have been in or transited through South Africa in the previous 10 days will not be permitted entry and direct flights will be banned. This excludes cargo and freight without passengers. This does not include British and Irish Nationals, visa holders and permanent residents, who will be able to enter but are required to self-isolate for 10 days along with their household," the statement said.
According to the UK Department of Health and Social Care, the new strain of COVID-19 was first discovered at Nelson Mandela Bay in South Africa in early October, however specialists believe that the new mutation could have started spreading as early as late August.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Wednesday that the UK had identified a second new variant of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 responsible for the COVID-19 disease in two patients who had been in contact with people that arrived from South Africa.
The news comes after the UK identified over the weekend a mutated coronavirus strain that is 70 percent more transmissible than other SARS-CoV-2 virus strains. Many countries, including France, Russia and the Netherlands, have since suspended passenger travel to and from the UK in a bid to prevent the import of the new virus strain.