Lord Peter Hain has added his vote 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 gutting the UK’s decision to keep South Africa on its list of countries banned from entering due to Covid-19.
Britain’s youngest decision Keeping South Africa on its Covid-19 âRed Listâ despite intensive lobbying by Pretoria and local tourism groups has sparked outrage and has been criticized for its lack of scientific basis.
Hain, a member of the UK House of Lords who loudly demanded that those accused of state imprisonment be held accountable, said Johnson: “The UK’s ongoing red list of South Africa has no scientific justification.”
Countries like the US, Germany, France and the United Arab Emirates are accepting fully vaccinated travelers from South Africa who present a negative Covid-19 test, while the UK maintains restrictions against South Africans due to the risk of spreading the beta variant.
âThere is only one variant in circulation in South Africa that is the same as in Great Britain: Delta. Its third wave peaked in July and, as the southern hemisphere summer enters the summer, has a tenth the number of infections in the UK and a similar percentage of infections compared to much of Europe. Its science skills are world class, and it tests more people and publishes more data than any other African country, âsaid Hain.
Turkey, Pakistan, the Maldives, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya were recently removed from the UK Red List, a cause of particular dismay among those working to open up travel to South Africans.
“You removed eight countries from the red list on September 17th, but three of them (Sri Lanka, Maldives and Turkey) have higher and rising infection rates compared to South Africa,” said Hain.
He noted that the infection rate in South Africa is currently lower than in the UK, US, France, Greece and the Netherlands, whose citizens can all travel to the UK.
âIt is absurd that the UK is now allowing travel to and from countries with much higher infection rates than South Africa.
âIn the five weeks leading up to September 24th, no beta genomes were sequenced by the Network for Genomic Surveillance in South Africa. The Delta variant has established itself in South Africa as well as in Great Britain and is dominant as it makes up over 98% of the genomes sequenced in Hain.
South Africa leads Africa in Covid-19 tests and Hain pointed to the country’s world-class genome sequencing capabilities.
âHowever, at the last review, it was Kenya and Egypt that were removed from the red list, despite doing less than a sixth the number of tests like South Africa. Again, it is very difficult to understand the rationale behind 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 hit hard by local Covid-19 bans and global travel restrictions.
âTourism directly and indirectly supports 1.5 million jobs in South Africa. A job in tourism feeds an average of seven more people, and in deprived rural communities it can be up to 14 grove.
He told Johnson that the UK’s position was making a âmockeryâ of its goal of being a world leader and was in violation of its international agreements.
“To maintain the credibility of our international travel system, your government must surely reward countries that can prove they are safe and not punish them,” said Hain.
âI therefore request that you immediately instruct the officials to remove South Africa from the Red List. At least this should apply to all South Africa-UK travelers who are double-vaccinated with EMA-approved vaccines. “
In a speech on Thursday evening, President Cyril Ramaphosa said he had spoken to Johnson about the status of South Africa and pointed out that the delta and not the beta variant is by far the most common Covid-19 variant in South Africa.
“We both agreed that decisions of this kind should be backed by science and hope for a positive outcome when the subject comes up for review in the coming days,” said Ramaphosa. DM