Tourism sector welcomes official confirmation of South Africa’s removal from UK red list

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3 min read
  • OMICRON VARIANT CLASSIFIED LOW-RISK IN MAJOR NEW SOUTH AFRICAN ANALYSIS 
  • OMICRON ON-TRACK TO BECOME DOMINANT VARIANT IN UK THIS WEEK 

Key findings from South Africa study: 

  • South Africa’s leading private healthcare provider, Discovery Health, unveils the largest real-world assessment of the Omicron variant to date, with over 211,000 positive COVID-19 test results, 41% from adult members who had received two-doses of the Pfizer- BioNTech vaccine. Approximately 78,000 of these positive COVID-19 test results were attributed to Omicron infections, over the period 15 November to 7 December 2021.  
  • Evidence strongly suggests Omicron results in a typically mild illness, irrespective of age or level of prior immunity. 
  • Rates of South African hospitalisations due to Covid remain low, despite very high Omicron infection levels. 
  • Numbers of patients in South Africa requiring either oxygen or ventilation due to Covid remains low. 
  • Two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination provides 70% protection against severe  

complications of COVID-19 requiring hospitalisation, and 33% protection against COVID-  

19 infection, during the current Omicron wave.  

  • Risk of hospital admission among adults diagnosed with COVID-19 is 29% lower for  

Omicron variant infection compared to D614G infection in South Africa’s first wave in mid-  

2020, after adjusting for vaccination status  

Implications: 

  • The red list travel restrictions in the UK and across the EU are now redundant due to the low risk presented by Omicron and the high rates of community transmission across the region 
  • Hospitalisations are likely to remain low in the current wave, irrespective of antibody levels 
  • Impact likely to be even more modest in countries with high vaccination rates 

Encouragingly, the result of the Discovery Health study shows that vaccinated individuals who received two-doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have 70% protection against hospital admission. Whilst protection against hospital admission reduced from the highs of 93% in South Africa’s Delta-driven variant, 70% is still regarded as very good protection.  

President of the SAMRC, Professor Glenda Gray said, “We are extremely encouraged by the results of Discovery Health’s analysis. It is extremely important to be able to demonstrate to the public that in a real-world setting – in the presence of a highly transmissible new COVID-19 variant – the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine provides good protection against severe disease and hospitalisation.”  

David Frost, CEO SATSA, representative body for in-bound tourism businesses in South Africa said: 

‘This is welcome news but red-listing Southern Africa for just three weeks caused incalculable damage to jobs and livelihoods in the region, with little discernible benefit to health outcomes in the UK.  

‘The UK government must now consign this blunt instrument to history and recognise the devastating impact red lists have to confidence amongst the travelling public.’ 

Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, Chief Executive Officer – TBCSA , said:  

“You are as likely to catch Omicron in Coventry as you are in Cape Town, and the scientific evidence is clear, that for most people this variant results in a mild disease which poses no threat to public health.   

“Millions of people across Southern Africa are dependent on tourism for an income, and thousands more families are waiting anxiously to know if their loved ones will be home for the holidays.  The UK needs to act immediately to begin rebuilding trust with the Global South where this travel policy has caused anger and resentment.”