The CEO of a rugby club on tour in South Africa has said he “can’t guarantee” getting all the staff home before Sunday’s deadline after the country was put on the UK’s travel red list.
Welsh side Scarlets – along with compatriots Cardiff – had been due to take part in the United Rugby Championship games.
However, their plans were thrown into chaos following the discovery of a new strain spreading through the continent which experts have described as the “worst COVID variant we’ve seen so far”.
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Earlier, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said flights to England from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe will be suspended from midday Friday and all six countries will be added to the red list.
Anyone arriving after 4am on Sunday will need to stay at a managed quarantine hotel.
Scarlets CEO Simon Muderack said the decision came as a “complete surprise”.
“Our immediate thought as a club was about the people, rather than the rugby. So we made an instant decision to work to repatriate our staff.
“I myself am struggling to recover from COVID for the second time and I am double jabbed.
“The thought of an even more virulent strain of the virus worries me deeply.”
Mr Muderack confirmed the club “already have options confirmed to get everyone home”.
“We are trying to pursue our options to get people home ideally in a direct fashion and also ideally before the 4am cut-off.
But he added he “can’t guarantee” that this will be achieved.
From Sunday onwards those returning to the UK must quarantine in a hotel for 10 days costing travellers £2,285 for one adult in one room.
Those who do not arrange a quarantine package before arriving could face fines up to £4,000.
Breaking quarantine rules also carries a fine up to £10,000.
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When asked if the government intended to help the touring teams, Mr Javid said: “We won’t do anything to help them get back before this deadline.
“Because I think anyone who is in South Africa, the best thing to do is to come back and after 4am on Sunday and go into hotel quarantine.”
Several other countries have also restricted travel from those six African nations and more are expected to.
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