Dirco: UK govt rushed to place SA on red list after new COVID variant detected

The International Relations Department is concerned that this will have a massive impact on tourism at a time when South Africa's economy relies on European tourists.

Coronavirus health warnings are seen in the arrivals hall at London Heathrow Airport in west London, on 15 January 2021. Picture: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP

JOHANNESBURG - The Department of International Relations said that the UK government had "rushed" its decision to place South Africa and five other countries on a "red list" after a new COVID-19 variant was detected here on home soil.

South Africa believes the decision taken by the UK government is unfortunate.

Just hours after the Health Department made the announcement that 22 cases had been detected in South Africa, the travel advisory was released by the UK.

ALSO READ:
With new COVID variant found in SA, questions raised over vaccine efficacy
UK to ban travel from SA, five other African countries due to new COVID variant
Renewed uncertainty about tight lockdowns ahead of Dec due to new variant
SA records 22 cases from new COVID variant, Phaahla says number steadily rising
New COVID-19 variant detected in SA - NICD

The International Relations Department is concerned that this will have a massive impact on tourism at a time when South Africa's economy relies on European tourists.

The department's Clayson Monyela: "So little is known about the variant. The WHo is yet to weigh in on the variant in terms of advising on the next step. We thought the UK would have waited for al of that but we hope to have an engagement between South Africa scientists and scientists from the UK so that they can compare notes and advise the two governments in terms of how to manage this."

Meanwhile, the Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa's Rosemary Anderson explained how the UK ban would impact the sector.

"They are our largest inbound market. This will have other spinoffs in other countries too, it's just got lots of negative repercussions," Anderson said.

She's hopeful more will be discovered about this new variant.

"We normally have about just under half-a-million inbound tourists coming in from the UK, so I'd be very surprised if anyone had booked a holiday coming to South Africa would still continue to do that. We're really hoping that they find out that this variation is not going to be as bad as they currently might think it is and that they're all just taking preventative action," she said.

WATCH: What we know about the new COVID-19 variant in SA