UK decision to ban SA flights over new Covid-19 variant 'premature': Pandor

Decision will damage tourism and business sectors, minister warns

26 November 2021 - 09:46
International relations and co-operation minister Naledi Pandor says the travel ban will damage tourism and business activity. File image.
International relations and co-operation minister Naledi Pandor says the travel ban will damage tourism and business activity. File image.
Image: EDUARDO MUNOZ

The government has lamented the UK’s decision to temporarily ban all flights from SA and five other countries as of 2pm (SA time) on Friday due to the discovery of a new Covid-19 variant.   

International relations and co-operation minister Naledi Pandor said the decision appears to have been “rushed”.

SA, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia have been added to the UK  travel red list as a precautionary measure.

“While SA respects the right of all countries to take the necessary precautionary measures to protect their citizens, the UK’s decision to temporarily ban South Africans from entering the UK seems to have been rushed, as even the World Health Organisation (WHO) is yet to advise on the next steps.”

Pandor said the decision had huge ramifications for various economic sectors.

“Our immediate concern is the damage that this decision will do to the tourism industries and businesses of both countries,” she said. 

In September, the UK placed SA on the red list, subjecting travellers to stringent restrictions and high costs when entering that country.

Pandor fought tooth and nail to get SA off the list, saying there was “no reasonable basis” for the decision to keep SA on the red list as it was administering thousands of vaccines daily. 

However, the new variant, also detected in Hong Kong, has been flagged as worrying by scientists and is spreading fast among young people in SA.

Health minister Joe Phaahla said the cabinet would meet President Cyril Ramaphosa to discuss the variant with premiers, raising fears of another Christmas under lockdown. 

“From the experience over the past 21 months, we can predict how this is going to move. Within the next few weeks this will be all over,” Phaahla told a media briefing on Thursday.

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