South Africa is back on UK’s red list – British Airways cancels flights

Posted by Anita Froneman on 26 November 2021

After a brief window where travelling to and from the United Kingdom, South Africa is placed on their red list yet again. The ban was reinstated effective Friday, 26 November after the discovery of a new Covid-19 variant in South Africa.

Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia have also been added to the UK’s red list. British Airways has started cancelling flights as a result. ‘We are aware of news from the Government about a ban on UK flights to South Africa. We will be contacting affected customers and colleagues in South Africa and will update our website with the latest information,’ the airline said on Twitter. 

‘We are taking precautionary action to protect public health and the progress of our vaccine rollout at a critical moment as we enter winter, and we are monitoring the situation closely,’ UK government said.

‘No cases have been identified in the UK. We are taking these precautionary measures to protect public health and the progress we’ve made so far through our successful vaccination programme.’

Scientists detected the new variant called B.1.1.529 two days ago. Studies reveal that the variant has a very unusual constellation of mutations which could make it more transmissible and evade the body’s immune response system. Conclusive analysis is days if not weeks away, but the UK and other countries are not taking any chances by imposing a travel ban.

South African tourism authorities have made it clear that they are disappointed with the reinstated ban, with the Southern African Tourism Services Association (SATSA) saying the ‘British Government’s knee-jerk reaction to institute a temporary red list ban on six countries… is exaggerated and punishes countries like South Africa with advanced genome sequencing capability for finding new variants.’

Rosemary Anderson, chairperson of the Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (FEDHASA), added: ‘New variants are discovered all the time, often without making any major impact, and we are still hopeful that our advanced scientific capability will find that in this case there is little to worry about. However, that does not mean that this decision by the British government won’t have widespread repercussions, not only by dissuading British travellers to visit South Africa, but also due to the likely spin-off we will see from other key source markets if they take the UK’s lead.’

Previously, South Africa along with several other countries was banned from entering the UK until early October this year. Soon after the ban on South Africa was lifted, travel experts are reporting a surge in flight bookings from South Africa.

By 13 October, air ticket sales from South Africa to London have tripled. ‘Our mobile app was also hugely popular with overall website traffic up by 50% since the announcement,’ said Andrew Stark, Flight Centre travel group MD.

Picture: Getaway gallery


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