Picture: Reuters
Picture: Reuters

Experts share data as SA pushes to be removed from UK’s Covid-19 travel red list

By Jonisayi Maromo Time of article published Sep 28, 2021

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Pretoria – Scientific experts representing South Africa and the United Kingdom have met amid Pretoria’s disquiet over London’s decision to keep South Africa on the red list of countries facing stringent Covid-19 restrictions and high costs when entering the UK.

Earlier this month, the UK government announced that eight countries, including Bangladesh, Kenya and the Maldives, will move from the red list on September 22, and the rules for international travel to England would change on October 4.

In a joint statement following the high-level meeting on Monday, South Africa’s national Department of Health and the British High Commission in Pretoria said they discussed the latest trends around Covid-19, respective Covid-19 testing strategies, and the prevalence and risk posed to both nations’ vaccination programmes by variants of concern.

“UK and SA experts also discussed the recognition of each other’s vaccine certificates. The UK side explained that, following some initial pilots, it was now seeking to extend its recognition of vaccine certificates around the world as rapidly as possible,” according to the joint statement.

“The UK expressed its willingness to take forward discussions with the SA government on this matter. The UK and SA governments both support and recognise the importance of vaccination as a way out of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Last week, the South African government said it was “puzzled” at the UK’s decision to keep South Africa on the red list.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) said thousands of families and business people in SA and the UK are shocked at the exclusion, especially given South Africa’s progress in combating the Covid-19 pandemic as evidenced by the rapid decline in infection rates due to the robust vaccination programme and excellent science.

At the time, Minister Naledi Pandor said: “We firmly believe there is no reasonable basis for keeping South Africa on the red list and I am very disappointed.”

Pandor added that Dirco, working with other stakeholders, will intensify efforts to have South Africa removed from the list and is optimistic that the UK government will finally realise that their decision is not harming just the tourism industry but other businesses from both countries.

The joint statement after Monday’s meeting said the UK and SA are both leading scientific nations, and that the meeting was initiated by the UK High Commission and the South African government “to ensure the most up-to-date and accurate sharing of information”.

“The UK side expressed its gratitude to SA experts for their willingness to share both data and expertise.

’’The insights provided will feed into the next review of UK border measures, which is due to take place within the next fortnight,” the joint statement said.

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