Ramaphosa hopeful SA will soon be off UK red list after chat with Boris Johnson
President Cyril Ramaphosa is “hopeful” SA could soon be removed from Britain's controversial travel red list after a telephonic conversation with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday.
Anyone who travels through or from a country on the red list is required to quarantine for about two weeks upon arrival in the UK, irrespective of whether they had been vaccinated.
The recent decision to keep SA on the red list was met with anger, particularly from government and scientists, and in the context of falling Covid-19 cases in SA.
In his address to the nation on Thursday, Ramaphosa said he was optimistic that the situation would soon change, largely because the Beta coronavirus variant, which the UK based its travel restrictions on, was actually not the dominant virus in SA. The Delta variant is dominant in both countries.
Ramaphosa said he and Johnson discussed this matter, and agreed that the travel ban should be informed by science.
“I put SA’s case to him, which he understood very well. We both agreed that decisions of this nature should be informed by science and are hopeful of a positive outcome when the issue comes up for review in the coming days,” he said.
Ramaphosa said being on the red list severely disadvantaged the country, “since the United Kingdom is SA’s biggest source of tourism from the northern hemisphere and a significant trading partner”.
“While UK scientists were concerned about the presence of the Beta variant in SA, the reality is that the Delta variant is now by far the dominant variant in the country. Our greatest priority now is to ensure that the economy recovers as quickly as possible, so that we can create jobs and help businesses to get back on their feet,” he said.
Ramaphosa said the only way SA can achieve this and lift restrictions is if South Africans choose to get vaccinated, and quickly.
“If the majority of our population is vaccinated, we can declare SA to be a safe destination and welcome tourists back over the summer season. We can resume sporting events and concerts, lift restrictions on restaurants and bars, and encourage people to return safely to their workplaces, shops and public spaces. If we can reach our vaccination targets by the end of this year, we can avoid further restrictions and kick our economic recovery into high gear,” he said.
The UK is set to review the red list in two weeks.