The Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (Satsa) is calling on the British government to move South Africa from its traveller red list and onto the amber list in the next ‘traffic light review’ set to take place on Thursday (September 16), citing compliance with the travelling regulations set out by the UK’s Joint Biosecurity Centre.
“Every week [that] the UK keeps South Africa on its red list it erodes the vital economic and environmental ties between our two countries,” Satsa CEO David Frost said on Monday. “Long after the threat from the pandemic fades, memories of Britain’s duplicity will endure.”
Satsa is an advocacy body for inbound travel into the country and represents over 1 300 businesses in the sector.
The association has heightened its call for SA to be removed from the UK’s red list amid declining Covid-19 numbers locally, which saw the country moving to the lower lockdown alert Level 2 on Monday.
SA’s vaccination roll-out is also gaining momentum, with all adults now eligible to get the jab.
“The UK’s response is not rooted in any form of science,” Frost told Moneyweb. “Their concerns are what we would term ‘anachronistic’. They are out of step with the present, dating back to December last year. The way that we communicated around the Beta variant, I think, was taken out of context.”
Satsa stressed that SA’s Covid-19 infection rate is in rapid decline and is already less than a quarter of the UK’s.
“SA is also tracking well below the US and most EU countries on the amber list such as France, Greece, Portugal, Belgium and the Netherlands,” the association pointed out.
Satsa said the Beta variant, which was mistakenly believed to evade vaccines, is now non-existent in the country.
“The Delta variant, on the other hand, currently makes up most of the cases just as in the UK. But likewise, recent fears over a new variant [C.1.2] have been significantly exaggerated, and the Delta variant is now in decline.”
In addition, SA has already achieved high levels of protection in its at-risk group of 60+ years and is now offering vaccines to all over 18s.
“Unfortunately, the UK has gotten themselves into a bit of a hole,” said Frost. “They haven’t done the necessary work, but we have – through our ways of communicating through the UK High Commission, our High Commissioner and through all the UK politicians that we have been in contact with, we provided them with the necessary information that will allow them to make a sober and an informed decision.”
A growing group in the UK has also recognised the injustice of South Africa’s red listing, with more than 32 000 people having signed a petition for the country to be granted amber status.
In a joint statement, British politicians Ben Bradshaw MP, Lord Oates, and Baroness Chalker said: “The evidence clearly points to South Africa being removed from the red list. If the UK Government wants to retain the integrity of its traffic light system, it must reward countries which empirically demonstrate they are safe by granting them amber status.”
Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, CEO of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) told Moneyweb on Monday that the “red-listing” problem, which has been ongoing for several months, is “an area of concern for the tourism industry at large”.
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“There have been multiple organisations that have been working on resolving the matter … The minister of international relations has made a call to the UK secretary of transport to ask for a reconsideration on the issue of a red-list.
“So what you are seeing now in terms of our affiliates like Satsa and many others who are involved, especially on the inbound tourism side, is a culmination of a lot of hard work that has been put into this.
“We do hope that when the UK does the review this coming Thursday, we do get some reprieve as a country and that we are able to get those that are coming from the UK [to South Africa] and vice versa being able to travel without these restrictions of quarantine,” Tshivhengwa added.
Satsa noted that most EU countries as well as the US and Canada have followed the data and reopened travel with South Africa.
“The isolationist policy of the UK risks squandering the competitive advantage with a region that will define the latter half of this century. If ‘Global Britain’ is to be anything more than a slogan, the UK needs to be present on the international stage,” it added.
The traffic light system for travel was introduced across the UK from May and is intended to gauge countries’ number of Covid-19 cases and deaths, vaccination rates and numbers of ‘variants of concern’.
Listen to Satsa CEO David Frost being interviewed on SAfm Market update:
Palesa Mofokeng is a Moneyweb intern.