South Africa and a host of other countries could soon be taken off the UK’s travel ‘red list’, according to The Telegraph and UK Independent.
Citing information from Covid analyst Tim White, UK media outlets report that the nation is currently reviewing the list, and may even dismantle the ‘traffic light system’ in the coming months.
Appearing on the red list is an effective travel ban for the countries listed, as the UK will only allow entry only to British and Irish Nationals arriving from these high-risk countries. Adding further pain to travellers, upon entry into the UK they must quarantine in government-managed hotels at their own expense, at a great expense.
UK nationals with South African families or interests previously petitioned the government to remove South Africa from the list, but failed, with the UK government remaining firm on its decision to block entry from high-risk travellers.
However, analysts have noted that infection rates within the UK are far higher than many of the countries it has banned – while the countries remain open to British citizens.
In recent weeks, international relations and cooperation minister Naledi Pandor held talks with her UK counterpart to try and get South Africa removed from the list.
Pandor said that the restrictions have caused distress to many South Africans living in the UK, who cannot attend funerals or visit sick family members in South Africa due to the punitive costs of mandatory quarantine they would carry upon their return to the UK.
The travel restrictions on travellers from South Africa have also severely impacted trade and tourism between South Africa and the UK, she said.
Pandor’s bid was backed up by dozens of local and multinational companies this week, through lobby group Business Leadership South Africa, which addressed a letter to UK prime minister Boris Johnson asking for the restrictions to be lifted.
The limits on movement are jeopardising the competitive advantage the UK has, which stem from its historical, cultural and economic links with Africa, BLSA said. The South African units of companies including BMW, JPMorgan Chase, Old Mutual and TotalEnergies were among the signatories.
Southern Africa Tourism Services Association CEO David Frost told 702 that with the support of the South African government and local branches of global companies, the country has captured sympathetic voices in the UK, and the message is getting through to the prime minister.
UK health secretary Sajid Javid is reportedly set to introduce a new framework for international travel to and from the UK in the coming weeks, which includes requirements for PCR tests and a ‘significant cut’ to the red list.
There are currently 62 countries on the UK’s ‘red-list’, including South Africa. According to The Telegraph, local travel agencies and consultancies have indicated that as many as 24 countries could be removed from the list.
Citing data from White, many of the countries that the UK government is looking to cut from the list are popular holiday destinations for British nationals – which includes South Africa. However, more countries will also likely be added, particularly where infections continue to surge.
South Africa is coming out of its third wave of infections, with new daily infection numbers dropping to lows last seen in May.
The review of the UK’s travel restrictions is expected sometime this week.