South Africa remains on UK red list
London Big Ben and Westminster Bridge traffic (Getty Images)
- South Africa will remain on the UK’s red list.
- Travel between the two countries has been severely restricted by the UK’s traffic light system which was introduced in May.
- South African travelers will be quarantined even if they are fully vaccinated.
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South Africa will remain on the UK’s (UK) red list, as the Transport Department confirmed on Thursday, leaving restrictions on travel between the two countries in place.
Travel between the UK and South Africa has been severely restricted over the past nine months. In December, the UK stopped travelers from South Africa over fears of the newly discovered beta variant. In May, the UK rolled out its traffic light travel system which ranked countries into three lists – red, green or amber – based on their respective Covid-19 risk profiles.
South Africa has been on the red list since its inception. Only UK or Irish nationals and those with residence rights have been allowed to enter the UK. These exempt travelers, however, were still forced to spend ten days in quarantine in a state-run hotel at their own expense of £ 2,285 (R 44,800).
The impact on the tourism industry in South Africa has been disastrous. The UK is South Africa’s largest source market. Before the pandemic, more than 430,000 British travelers traveled to South Africa in 2019. These arrivals fell 97% in 2020 and less than 8,000 British travelers came to South Africa in the first half of 2021.
This critical shortage of British tourists, due to the controversial quarantine requirements of the traffic light system, cost the South African economy R790 million for every month it was on the red list.
Resistance to the UK’s traffic light system has grown in recent months, with opponents criticizing alleged inconsistencies in assessments conducted by the country’s Joint Biosafety Center.
The Southern African Tourism Services Association (Satsa) led the local charge, advocating for South Africa’s removal from the Red List. An official petition against keeping South Africa on the red list has collected nearly 40,000 signatures.
Responding to the news in The South African, David Frost, CEO of SATSA, said the latest news from the UK is a “kick in the teeth”.
“It’s a kick in the teeth for 1.5 million South African tourism workers who relied on British visitors this spring. There isn’t a shred of scientific evidence to support keeping Africa alive. South on the red list and the only conclusion that remains is that the UK government has an irrational fear of South Africa that hinders decision-making, “he said.
“The UK government must urgently reconsider this classification to avoid irreparable damage to a relationship with a key ally and business partner.”
South Africa will remain officially on the UK’s red list
The move is part of the UK’s latest update to its traffic light system on Friday, which reduced the number of countries on the red list.
The move to the Orange List would have been a relief for the struggling South African tourism industry. This coincides with the start of the summer season, which has traditionally been a boom for UK visitors. This would have allowed South Africans to travel freely to the UK for the first time this year.
Although South Africa is still on the Red List, Egypt, Bangladesh, Turkey, Pakistan, Oman, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Kenya have moved to the Least Restrictive Amber List from 4 a.m. UK time Wednesday, September 22, 2021.
Visitors to these countries will need to be fully vaccinated and take a Covid-19 test three days before their arrival as well as upon arrival in the UK.
Traffic light system to be revised
In addition to the latest update on Red, Amber and Green List countries, the UK is expected to overhaul its traffic light system in early October.
Green and Orange List countries will likely be merged into one category, further consolidating ease of international travel for all fully vaccinated travelers, according to a report from the Telegraph. There is also talk of replacing the costly requirements of PCR testing with rapid lateral flow testing.
(compiled by Luke Daniel and Larry Claasen)