The South African travel industry is calling on UK Government to move South Africa to the amber list in the next traffic light review.
South Africa fulfils the Government’s criteria to be moved onto the amber list, as set out by the Joint Biosecurity Centre:
COVID-19 transmission risk
- South Africa’s infection rate is in rapid decline and is already less than a quarter of the UK’s and tracking well below the US and most EU countries on the amber list such as France, Greece, Portugal, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Variant transmission risk
- The Beta variant, which was mistakenly believed to evade vaccines, is now non-existent in South Africa. The Delta variant makes up the vast overwhelming majority of cases, just as in the UK. Likewise, recent fears over a new variant (C.1.2) have been significantly exaggerated, as it is now in decline, representing less than 1.5% of recent cases.
Genomic surveillance capability
- South Africa is a world leader in genomic sequencing, with some of the leading experts working in the country. They currently rank 23rd in the country rankings of most genomes sequenced per week, and 1st in Africa.
- It is now reliably estimated that 70-80% of people in South Africa have had the virus, compared to 18% in the UK. This means that South Africa has amongst the highest levels of naturally acquired immunity of any country in the world
- Although the Joint Biosecurity Centre has removed local vaccination rates as a primary criteria in its risk methodology, South Africa is further augmenting its antibody levels through a vaccine programme which is inoculating over 1m people every week.
- South Africa’s median age is 17 versus 40 in the UK, which means South Africa has already achieved high levels of protection in its at-risk group of 60+ years and is now offering vaccines to all over 18s.
Most EU countries as well as the US and Canada have followed the data and reopened travel with South Africa. The isolationist policy of the UK risks squandering the competitive advantage with a region that will define the latter half of this century. If ‘Global Britain’ is to be anything more than a slogan, the UK needs to be present on the international stage.
A growing group in the UK has recognised the injustice of South Africa’s red listing, with more than 32,000 signing a petition for South Africa to be removed from the red list.
In a joint statement, Ben Bradshaw MP, Lord Oates and Baroness Chalker said, “The evidence clearly points to South Africa being removed from the red list. If the UK Government wants to retain the integrity of its traffic light system, it must reward countries which empirically demonstrate they are safe by granting them amber status.”
David Frost, CEO of SATSA the voice of inbound travel to South Africa representing 1350 businesses said, “Every week the UK keeps South Africa on its red list it erodes the vital economic and environmental ties between our two countries. Long after the threat from the pandemic fades, memories of Britain’s duplicity will endure.”