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SA to be removed from UK red list for international travel from Monday

07 October 2021 - 19:34
People from countries on the UK’s red list are required to quarantine upon arrival there, irrespective of whether they have been vaccinated.
People from countries on the UK’s red list are required to quarantine upon arrival there, irrespective of whether they have been vaccinated.
Image: 123RF/irstone

SA is among 47 countries that are set to be removed from the UK travel red list from Monday.

This announcement was made by the UK secretary of state for transport Grant Shapps on Thursday. According to Shapps, only seven countries remained on their red list and their citizens travelling to the UK would still be required to undergo a mandatory quarantine period.

The UK had insisted on keeping SA on its travel red list apparently due to inaccurate information received from a rogue scientist based in the country. This scientist, according to international relations minister Naledi Pandor, was telling UK scientists that they disagreed with the data from SA on its fight against Covid-19.  This prompted a meeting between the ministerial advisory committee and the UK at which correct data was shared.

It was on this basis that the UK has now revised its decision and will remove SA from its red list.

“I'm also making changes so travellers visiting England have fewer entry requirements, by recognising those with fully vax status from 37 new countries and territories including India, Turkey and Ghana, treating them the same as UK fully vax passengers,” Shapps announced on Twitter.

“The measures announced ... mark the next step as we continue to open up travel and provide stability for passengers while remaining on track to keep travel open for good.”

Keeping SA on the red list was costly for those travelling to the UK as they had to spend days in quarantine on their arrival, said to cost on average almost R50,000.

This was said to be unnecessary as Covid-19 cases in SA had dropped significantly, resulting in the country moving to a reduced lockdown level 1. The country has also fully vaccinated more than 7-million people.

SA tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu welcomed the decision, with her department saying the announcement came shortly after her meeting with the UK high commissioner.

“We are delighted to see the UK restrictions on travel to SA lifted, after a successful vaccine rollout in SA, and continued decline in new Covid-19 cases. We look forward to welcoming our British visitors in time for the South African summer season and we will continue to work tirelessly with  all our national and international partners to ensure the success of SA’s tourism recovery,” Sisulu said. 

Dr Stavros Nicolaou, speaking on behalf of Business for SA (B4SA), said the alliance of SA businesses welcomed the decision by the UK authorities.

“While this decision is welcome, we remain disappointed at the delay and lost time in arriving at this point, which would have opened up trade, commerce and supply chains earlier, particularly for industries such as tourism and leisure that have been particularly affected.

“Ultimately it looks like South African scientific data and common sense have prevailed and we now look forward to making up for lost ground and hopefully drawing on the experiences of the past few weeks to deepen commercial, investment and trade collaboration between our two countries, as we look to implement our Covid-19 economic response and recovery plans.” — Additional reporting by Tanya Farber.