South Africa will be off the UK’s Red List from Monday. File image.
South Africa will be off the UK’s Red List from Monday. File image.

The UK owes us an explanation for putting SA on the red list

By Time of article published Oct 9, 2021

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Editorial

Johannesburg - On Monday, South Africa will be off the UK Red List, an incredibly punitive measure that forced any travellers from here to quarantine, at their own, cost for 10 days on arrival in Britain.

The effect of the rule was as simple as it was devastating – it simply wasn’t worth making the trip to South Africa on holiday if you were expatriate South African or leaving SA to spend Christmas if your family lived there. That was the human cost.

The cost to our tourism industry would have been catastrophic. Tourism contributed 3% to GDP in 2018. British tourists are the most important part of our overseas tourism market – 440 000 of them spent R10 billion here in 2019. The tourism industry employs 657 000 people in this country. Thanks to Covid-19, we had only 8 000 British tourists visit South Africa in the first five months of this year.

How much of this week’s U-turn was due to the intense South African government pressure and public outrage is difficult to ascertain, because the British government effectively cleared much of Africa at the same time.

The truth is South Africa should never have been red-listed; our world-class scientists and epidemiologists were never consulted and the science of the virus was conveniently ignored by the British government. Countries with higher infection rates were all removed from the list but we weren’t.

We were more at threat from Britain and its people, than it ever was from us – but we never imposed punitive quarantines. It’s even more ironic when you consider our importance to Britain as a trading partner in a post-Brexit world.

Thankfully, everything’s been resolved, but we need to know why we were red-listed, because until we understand that, we’ve no vaccination against another British bureaucratic whim in the future.

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