‘We just want to be together for Christmas’: Family devastated by SA travel ban
South Africans living in the Netherlands hope that the UK's decision to place SA on its travel red list after the discovery of a new Covid-19 variant will be lifted soon so they can spend Christmas with their loved ones.
The UK announced that from 2pm (SA time) on Friday, SA, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, and Namibia will be added to the UK’s travel red list as the new Covid-19 variant is under investigation by the UK Health Security Agency.
Passengers arriving in the UK from these countries from 4am on Sunday will be required to book and pay for a government-approved hotel quarantine facility for 10 days.
Direct flights from the six countries will be banned until hotel quarantine is up and running from 4am on Sunday.
A SA family, now living in the Netherlands, told TimesLIVE on Friday that their hopes of spending Christmas with their mother was dashed by the listing.
“I bought my mum a ticket for her 60th birthday to come and spend Christmas here in the Netherlands, and now this won't be possible, even with her British passport and being fully vaccinated. I am devastated as I don't want her to spend Christmas alone.
“I am hoping the rules will change — even if she can come here and quarantine that is fine, we just want to be together,” Lauren Potgieter said.
An alternative plan would be for the family to fly to Cape Town to spend Christmas in SA, Potgieter said.
“If that is even possible ... the flights would be too expensive. So many things can change in the next few weeks so I am hoping for the best,” she said.
Troy Martens said she was excited when SA was removed from the red list in October, which would have allowed her two sisters to attend her wedding in December.
But that excitement was short-lived when SA was placed back on the list this week.
“I am extremely disappointed because now my sisters won’t be able to attend my wedding. I think I was really excited when we got taken off the red list that they could come. It is really sad and disappointing now that they can’t come.
“That would be amazing if things changed in the next few weeks, but I am just going to hold steadfast and hope for the best. I don’t think much can change between now and then,” she said.
Tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu also expressed disappointment at the ban.
Japan, Israel and the EU had all moved to impose stricter measures against SA travellers.
“While this is most disappointing, SA will continue working with policymakers in the UK, Japan, Israel and EU to ensure that the best possible interventions are put in place.”
The ban comes after the NICD reported a new variant — B.1.1.529 — which is believed to be highly transmissible.
Hundreds of positive cases of the variant have been recorded in the country — and hundreds more are being analysed — after genomic sequencing collaborations between the NICD and private laboratories.
The Gauteng department of health on Friday said the number of hospital admissions for Covid-19 was rising in the province.
The department said the province was experiencing a rapid rise in new infections. By Thursday evening, 1,950 new cases were recorded in Gauteng. On Wednesday, there were 1,018.
The number of admitted patients in the province on Thursday were 707 — of whom 312 were at public hospitals and 395 at private facilities.
Meanwhile, international relations and co-operation minister Naledi Pandor said the decision appears to have been “rushed”.
“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.
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