Former British Minister Peter Hain. (Photo: Daniel Berehulak / Getty Images) | British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. (Photo: EPA-EFE / FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA)
Lord Peter Hain has added his voice to calls for the UK to remove South Africa from its Covid-19 red list, telling Prime Minister Boris Johnson that the classification has no scientific basis.
Dear Boris, Lord Peter Hain begins his letter to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson before eviscerating Britain’s decision to keep South Africa on its list of countries from which citizens cannot enter due to Covid-19.
Recent Brittany decision keeping South Africa on its Covid-19 red list, despite intense lobbying from Pretoria and local tourism groups, has sparked outrage and been criticized for its lack of scientific basis.
Hain, a member of the UK House of Lords who has urged that those accused of state capture be held accountable, told Johnson that maintaining South Africa’s red list by the UK has no scientific justification.
Countries like the United States, Germany, France and the United Arab Emirates accept fully vaccinated travelers from South Africa who test negative for Covid-19, while the United Kingdom has maintained restrictions against South Africans due to the risk of the beta variant spreading.
South Africa has only one variant in circulation, which is the same variant as in the UK: Delta. Her third wave peaked in July and as she enters the southern hemisphere summer she has a tenth of infections in the UK and a fraction of infection similar to that of much of the UK. Europe. Its scientific capabilities are top notch, and it tests more people and publishes more data than any other African country, Hain said.
Turkey, Pakistan, Maldives, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya were recently removed from the UK’s red list, sparking particular dismay from those pushing for open up travel to South Africans.
You removed eight countries from the red list on September 17, but three of them (Sri Lanka, Maldives and Turkey) have higher and increasing infection rates compared to South Africa, Hain said. .
He pointed out that South Africa’s infection rate is currently lower than that of the UK, US, France, Greece and the Netherlands, whose citizens can all travel to Greater -Brittany.
It is absurd that the UK now allows travel to and from countries with much higher infection rates than South Africa.
No beta genomes were sequenced by the Network for Genomic Surveillance in South Africa in the five weeks leading up to September 24. The Delta variant has taken over and is dominant in South Africa as well as the UK, accounting for over 98% of the genomes sequenced, so the science base for the UK’s Red List has long been outdated at best. and at worst entirely false, Hain said. .
South Africa leads Africa in Covid-19 testing and Hain noted the country’s world-class genomic sequencing capabilities.
Yet in the last review, it was Kenya and Egypt that were taken off the red list, despite performing less than a sixth as many tests as South Africa. Again, it is very difficult to understand the logical basis of Britain’s position on the Red List.
The UK is South Africa’s largest source of tourism and the country’s tourism industry has been severely affected by local Covid-19 lockdowns and global travel restrictions.
Tourism supports 1.5 million jobs in South Africa on a direct and indirect basis. A job in tourism feeds an average of seven other people, and in disadvantaged rural communities the figure can reach 14. By cutting tourism, we are depriving many South Africans of not only an income, but also an education. and a future, argued Hain. .
He told Johnson that the UK’s stance mocks its goal of being a world leader and flies in the face of its international agreements.
To maintain any credibility in our international travel system, your government must surely reward countries that can prove they are safe, not punish them, Hain said.
I therefore urge you to immediately ask officials to remove South Africa from the red list. At the very least, this should apply to all South Africa-UK travelers doubly vaccinated with EMA-approved vaccines.
In a speech Thursday evening, President Cyril Ramaphosa said he had spoken to Johnson about South Africa’s status and pointed out that the Delta variant rather than Beta was by far the most common variant of Covid-19 in South Africa.
We both agreed that decisions of this nature should be informed by science and we hope for a positive outcome when the matter is considered in the coming days, Ramaphosa said. DM
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