Dirco: UK's Beta variant excuse for SA's red listing 'defies logic'

Dirco spokesperson Clayson Monyela said they were disappointed by the UK's move to keep South Africa on its red list.

FILE: Countries on the red list are not able to travel to the UK without being in a 10-day quarantine at the cost of the traveller. Picture: 123rf.com

CAPE TOWN - The Department of International Relations and Cooperation on Tuesday said the United Kingdom's (UK) basis for keeping South Africa on its red list for travel made no scientific sense.

The UK said that the country was still in the red box because it was concerned about the continued presence of the COVID-19 Beta variant. Countries on the red list are not able to travel to the UK without being in a 10-day quarantine at the cost of the traveller.

But South African scientists said the UK's understanding of the country's variants was wrong, adding that over 95% of COVID-19 cases were actually driven by the Delta variant. Tulio de Oliviera, director of the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform that first detected and alerted the UK to the 501.V2 (Beta) variant, said on Saturday the Beta variant was not detected in South Africa for months.

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Dirco spokesperson Clayson Monyela told Cape Talk on Tuesday they were disappointed by South Africa's standing.

“It’s inexplicable and it completely defies logic. There is no reasonable scientific basis or any other basis for the United Kingdom to put South Africa on its so-called red list,” he said.

He added that leading experts on viruses indicated on Monday that they would release papers that show the Delta variant had replaced the Beta variant.

“If the UK is using the Beta variant as an excuse for this decision, it scientifically doesn't make sense, because there is no such a concern. Beta has been detected in France and in Spain, how come those two countries are not on their red list?” Monyela asked.

Monyela said the best way forward was to engage with the UK and bring in SA scientists to speak the same language and compare notes.

“There is confirmation that their community and ours will be getting together to share and compare notes. The minister will be speaking to her counterpart, so that we fast track the process of the decision being reversed,” he said.

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