Covid: Cardiff and Scarlets to return to Wales after South Africa added to travel red list

The Scarlets and Cardiff Rugby are making "every effort to return to Wales" after South Africa was added to the UK Government's travel red list amid growing concern of a new Covid variant.

The United Rugby Championship is scheduled to stage its first fixtures on South African soil this weekend, with the Scarlets set to face the Sharks in Durban on Saturday and Cardiff facing the Lions in Johannesburg on Sunday.

Irish province Munster and Italian club Zebre Parma are also in South Africa ahead of fixtures against the Bulls and Stormers respectively, and all four sides are due to play a second round of matches in the country next weekend.

UK officials sounded the alarm on Thursday night over a new variant of the virus that causes Covid-19 which has the potential to evade immunity built up by vaccination or prior infection.

Sajid Javid, the UK Health Secretary, said that 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.

The Scarlets posted on social media in the early hours of Friday morning.

A statement said: "Following the news of a new COVID-19 variant in South Africa, Scarlets would like to assure families and friends that we are making every effort to get our touring party back home to the UK as soon as possible. We will provide further updates as soon as we can."

Cardiff Rugby also looked to reassure families that there were looking to "repatriate staff ASAP."

A post read: "With the situation in South Africa having changed so quickly, we are now looking to repatriate our staff ASAP.

"For concerned families and friends, please rest assured that our focus is to ensure the safety and welfare of our people and will keep you updated with any developments."