South Africa is in turmoil over Britain’s decision to keep the country on its coronavirus ‘red list’, a move that means travelers have to pay for a costly hotel quarantine when they return to the Kingdom -United.
Renowned for its breathtaking wildlife and landscapes, South Africa is struggling to recover from the crippling blow the coronavirus has dealt to a tourism industry that directly accounts for 3% of the national economy and – before the pandemic – was one of the few bright jobs places, providing more than 700,000 jobs.
Cut off from the rest of the world for most of 2020, then blacklisted by several governments following the discovery of the beta variant in December, South Africa is slowly starting to see a trickle of well-paying foreign visitors as infection rates go down.
Travelers from Europe and the US, South Africa’s biggest tourist markets along with the UK, can currently vacation and then self-isolate at home on their return – a hassle some are willing to take.
But the UK has kept South Africa on its red list of high-risk countries, meaning anyone arriving from South Africa is required to self-quarantine in a hotel for 10 days, which costs more than 2,400 dollars (2,000 euros) per person.
The stratospheric cost rules out the country for most UK tourists.
With more than 400,000 visitors a year in the pre-pandemic era, the UK was South Africa’s biggest source of long-haul travellers, especially during the northern hemisphere winter.
Some British nationals such as Claire Alexander have been stranded in South Africa for over a year due to costly restrictions.
“I’ve just spoken to my 91-year-old dad in Stirling and it’s quite painful to know that I can’t go home,” said the mother-of-two, whose youngest child is not yet met “his Scottish clan”.
Marc Mendelson, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Cape Town, is a Briton who obtained his doctorate at the prestigious Addenbrooks Hospital in Cambridge.
He said he was “embarrassed” by the government of his home country.
“Misinformation, misrepresentation, outdated and inaccurate science,” he tweeted this week.
– Beta blockers –
The British Embassy in Pretoria acknowledged “positive developments” in South Africa.
He noted that “cases are declining, data on variants of concern are improving and vaccinations are increasing.”
But he said concerns remained “about the continued presence of Beta given its potential ability to circumvent vaccines”.
Nonsense, said Tulio de Oliveira, South Africa’s leading genomics expert, tweeting on Monday that his research showed the Delta variant had now completely replaced Beta in South Africa.
This was confirmed by Adrian Puren of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, who told AFP that the beta variant was “undetectable” in cases sequenced in September, and that concerns about its resistance to the vaccine were “without object”.
“Really unscientific decision,” said de Oliveira, adding that South Africa has a higher vaccination rate than some non-red-listed countries, including India, where the Delta variant first appeared. times.
“We have a lower number of infections than in the UK…So why the discrimination?” de Oliveira said, adding that: “We look forward to engaging UK scientists and having constructive discussions with (the) UK.”
– Picking up jabs –
New daily cases in South Africa peaked in late June at just over 26,000, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Britain continues to see more than 30,000 new cases a day.
Vaccinations, meanwhile, are resuming after a slow start, with around 20% of South African adults now fully vaccinated.
To date, the country has recorded more than 2.8 million cases, the highest in Africa, of which at least 86,376 have been fatal. Britain has recorded 7.5 million cases and at least 135,455 deaths.
South Africa’s main inbound tourism association has also lobbied London to remove the red tag.
The director of luxury holiday booking group Discover Africa, Andre Van Kets, argued the measures no longer made sense as infection and vaccination rates were “moving in the right direction”.
British tourists are still inquiring and making plans for 2022 and 2023, he said, but often back out when asked to pay a deposit.
“There is no reasonable basis for keeping South Africa on the red list,” Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said in a statement this week touting the country’s “robust vaccination program and excellent science”. country.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Andre Retief of tour operator Safari With Us, which relies on the UK for 20-30% of its bookings.
“Covid is all over the world now and coming on safari is actually quite safe.”