In response to a UK petition, ‘Remove South Africa from the travel ‘Red List’’, the British Government has failed to provide any evidence to support its policy. The petition has received over 26,000 signatures to date and represents some of the ±450,000 British passport holders who travel to South Africa in a normal year.
In a boilerplate response, the British Government stated that South Africa would remain on the red list because it: “continues to present a high public health risk to the UK from known variants of concern”. It pointed to reports by the Joint Biosecurity Council which it claimed evidenced the data it is using. However, the reports only show data on countries which are moving from one traffic light colour to another, with no data on South Africa.
All the evidence suggests South Africa should be moved to the amber list. The British Government has repeatedly claimed the Beta variant (first identified in South Africa) is a variant of concern. Yet AstraZeneca have formally announced their vaccine provides “good to excellent protection” against it. Moreover, due to Beta’s low transmissibility, it now represents under 4% of cases in South Africa, with over 90% of cases being the Delta variant, the same variant dominant in the UK.
Furthermore, South Africa’s infection rate is tracking well below the UK and several European countries on the amber list. Following the evidence, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the US and China are among those which have all reopened travel to South Africa. The UK’s response looks increasingly anomalous.
David Frost, CEO of SATSA, the representative body for inbound tourism to South Africa said:
“The British Government is treating people who have signed the petition to remove South Africa from the red list with contempt. If it disagrees with recent scientific assessments of South Africa’s safety, it should say why. There are over 1.5 million South Africans whose livelihoods depend on income from tourism. The UK owes these people a better explanation for why it continues to maintain travel restrictions which every day look more and more discriminatory.”