WC govt wants SA off UK's red list while experts from both countries meet

As things stand, anyone from South Africa without a British or Irish passport traveling to that country has to go for mandatory quarantine at their own cost, even if they've been vaccinated, and test negative for COVID-19.

FILE: It remains to be seen whether this meeting will have any impact on South Africa's placement on the red list when it reviews its border measures over the next fortnight. Picture: 123rf.com

JOHANNESBURG/ CAPE TOWN - Experts from the UK and South Africa have met virtually in the latest bid to get the country off the UK's travel red list.

Most travellers coming from Europe and the US, South Africa's biggest tourism markets along with the UK, can currently holiday and then self-isolate at home upon return - a hassle that some are prepared to take.

But the UK has kept South Africa on its red list of high-risk countries, meaning anyone arriving from South Africa is forced to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days, costing more than $2,400 per person.

The stratospheric cost rules the country out for most British tourists.

The two countries met on Monday to discuss the latest COVID-19 data and trends.

Scientific experts from both countries have shared the most up-to-date information about COVID-19 statistics on home soil.

The meeting was set up by the UK High Commission and the South African government.

It remains to be seen whether this meeting will have any impact on South Africa's placement on the red list when it reviews its border measures over the next fortnight.

During Monday’s meeting, the UK delegation said "it is now seeking to extend its recognition of vaccine certificates around the world as rapidly as possible."

The Department of Health said the UK showed that it was willing to have more discussions with the South African delegation on this important issue.

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Meanwhile, the Western Cape government is on a mission to get the tourism sector back on track and has taken it upon itself to approach UK authorities about the country remaining on the red list.

It's also repeated calls for the province to move to lockdown level 1. The sector has been hit hard throughout the pandemic and is still trying to recover.

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde believes an end to the national state of disaster and moving to lockdown level 1 will create more economic opportunities, especially through tourism.

“This sector is key to creating jobs and hope for the future and quite frankly, our numbers have come down,” he said.

Finance and Economic Opportunities MEC David Maynier said he had written to the UK's Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs about South Africa remaining on the country's travel red list.

This despite South Africa's declining COVID-19 cases, government's accelerated vaccination programme and assurances from scientists and other experts.

"The letter is one of the many steps we've taken to engage with key decision makers both in the UK and in South Africa to tackle this significant barrier to economic growth,” Maynier said.

According to Cape Town Tourism CEO Enver Duminy, before COVID-19, tourism contributed R1 out of every R12 in the GDP and 1 out of 11 jobs was in tourism.

Additional reporting by AFP.

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