South Africa’s tourism minister said it is “most disappointing” that the UK has put the country back on its red list because of a new strain of Covid-19.
And the country’s head of tourism in the UK has urged the British government to reconsider the hotel quarantine rules that will come into force on Sunday for arrivals.
Six southern African countries have been added to the UK red list from noon on Friday (November 26) and flights are temporarily banned.
Japan, Israel and the European Union have also placed stricter measures on travel to South Africa.
No cases of the variant have yet been found in the UK but Belgium announced on Friday (November 26) that it had Europe’s first case of the strain, while Israeli media also reported one case involving a traveller.
The UK health secretary Sajid Javid said the government red list decision was based primarily on countries where the new variant had first been detected – South Africa and Botswana – and the other four countries have been included as a “precaution”.
He told the House of Commons today: “We are keeping this under review and there’s very live discussions going on.”
Lindiwe Sisulu, South Africa’s tourism minister, said: “While this is most disappointing, South Africa will continue working with policymakers in the UK, Japan, Israel and European Union to ensure that the best possible interventions are put in place. We remain open for business and tourism travel.”
Kgomotso Ramothea, acting hub head at South African Tourism for the UK and Ireland, said the red list decision was “devastating” for the country’s tourism industry.
“We were starting to make progress in welcoming visitors back to our wonderful country as we headed into the destination’s summer season,” she said.
“We respect the UK government’s need for caution around the new variant, however we are disappointed that South Africa will again be missing out on tourism during the peak season this year which will further delay tourism recovery.
“We would urge the UK government to reconsider current managed quarantine rules to ones that will cause minimal disruption to travel plans while ensuring that people are equally as protected.”
Willie Walsh, Iata director general, warned that travel restrictions are not a “long-term solution to control Covid variants”.
“Governments are responding to the risks of the new coronavirus variant in emergency mode, causing fear among the travelling public,” he said.
“As quickly as possible, we must use the experience of the last two years to move to a coordinated data-driven approach that finds safe alternatives to border closures and quarantine.”
Aviation data specialist Cirium said South Africa was the only one of the six countries on the red list to have had direct flights to the UK.
British Airways has been serving Cape Town and Johannesburg, while Virgin Atlantic has been flying to Johannesburg.
In total there were 82 flights between the UK and South Africa over the past two weeks.
For December, the airlines had scheduled a total of 289 flights between the UK and South Africa.
Meanwhile, battleface Insurance Services has stressed its travel insurance products will continue to be valid if customers need to travel to any of the six southern African countries on the red list.
Katie Crowe, communications director, said: “There will still be travellers, who for family or other reasons still need to travel to the southern African region.
“Our products protect travellers regardless of traffic light colour and FCDO advisories.”
Picture by ArtOfPhotos/Shutterstock