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Western Cape officials welcome news the UK has lifted its travel bans and taken SA off red list

Premier Alan Winde, Finance and Economic Opportunities MEC David Maynier and mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis welcomed the announcement. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency

Premier Alan Winde, Finance and Economic Opportunities MEC David Maynier and mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis welcomed the announcement. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency

Published Dec 15, 2021


Cape Town – Britain has announced the removal of South Africa from its contentious travel red list which required mandatory hotel quarantine for travellers returning from South Africa as of this morning.

Britain’s Transport Minister Grant Shapps said in a series of tweets on Tuesday evening: “From 4am on Wednesday December 15, all 11 countries will be removed from England’s travel red list

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“As always, we keep all our travel measures under review and we may impose new restrictions should there be a need to do so to protect public health.”

He said all of Britain’s current testing measures remain in place and will be reviewed in the first week of January.

Southern Africa Tourism Services Association chief executive David Frost said in the first 48 hours following the reintroduction of the red list at least R940 million in bookings were recorded.

On Tuesday evening Premier Alan Winde and Finance and Economic Opportunities MEC David Maynier welcomed the announcement.

Winde said: “The Western Cape government has been lobbying and engaging with international counterparts on the removal of South Africa from the red-list.

“We have argued that travel bans are no longer effective in preventing the spread of Omicron, which is already established in other countries.

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“This is why we are very pleased with the announcement, and call on other countries who have imposed similar travel bans to lift them too.”

He said the Province had further argued that existing measures such as adherence to non-pharmaceutical measures including mask-wearing, PCR testing and proof of vaccination are sufficient to ensure safe travels.

Maynier said: “This is a proud moment for the Western Cape because it means that we can get our economy back on track by reviving the tourism and hospitality sector, which are so dependent on during the summer season.”

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Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis said: “I am glad to read reports that the British government has allowed reason to prevail and reversed the decision to place South Africa on their red list.

“To the British public we say, there’s still time to hop on a plane to Cape Town and have an unforgettable summer holiday.

“See you here soon.”

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Airlines Association of Southern Africa chief executive Aaron Munetsi said members were relieved that sense has prevailed and the UK has decided to relax the travel restrictions.

He said they had been hastily imposed on South Africa and other Southern African countries following the announcement of the identification of the Omicron variant by South African scientists last month.

“It was clear from the start that restrictions, the intentions of which are debatable, were counter productive and ineffective.

“We trust that policy makers and political leaders will take their lead from science and harmonise their adoption of measures for safe air travel that are recommended by the World Health Organisation and its UN sister body, the International Civil Aviation Organisation.”

Absa analyst Peter Worthington said that although the removal of South Africa from the red list is welcome, much irreversible economic damage has been done because there have been a lot of cancellations of Christmas and January bookings, a peak tourism season in South Africa.

“Ongoing nervousness about the Omicron variant surge in South Africa is likely to deter many tourists anyway, regardless of the specific legal requirements regarding test, vaccination and quarantine.”

The news of the travel ban lift followed speculation on Tuesday after Britain’s health minister had said the new variant now represented 20% of Covid-19 cases in Britain and that if the variant became dominant in the country “there would be less need to have any kind of travel restrictions at all”.

On Tuesday British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that at least one person had died in Britain from the Omicron variant.

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