There was a great sense of disappointment after the UK’s announcement last Friday that it would keep South Africa on its “red list”.
Unfortunately, this decision is doing great harm to South Africa’s tourism industry and is wreaking havoc on the two countries’ economic ties.
The UK and SA depend on one another, per Moneyweb, with Britain exporting R62 billion to South Africa in the year to end-March while it imported R90 billion.
Additionally, the UK is South Africa’s second-largest trading partner (behind the EU). For the UK, South Africa is the largest trading partner in Africa.
The disappointment is really compounded when you take a closer look at some of the stats:
It was announced at the same time that Turkey would be removed from the red list, yet that country is experiencing over 23 000 new cases per day with a population of 82 million, while South Africa is at 4 000 and declining, with a population of 58 million.
Infection rates are far higher in other countries that have already been off the red list.
Of course, both Turkey and South Africa are below the infection rate in the UK itself, which is running at 29 000 with a population of 37 million.
Then there’s the whole deal with the COVID-19 Beta variant, which is supposedly central to the UK’s decision to keep South Africa red-listed.
According to tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu, speaking at the Africa travel and tourism summit this week, the British government believes the Beta variant is a South African variant, per TimesLIVE:
Sisulu said: “They [the UK] are confusing the variant with South Africa because it was first detected here. But it does not mean it is a South African variant. We have agreed to have a joint team of scientists advise the South African and British governments so they can get us out of the red and come up with the right result.”
In fact, the Beta variant makes up just 1% of new infections.
This is backed up by respected scientist Tulio de Oliveira, director of the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (Krisp) and a member of the ministerial advisory committee on COVID-19:
We are finishing and releasing a paper showing that Delta completely replace Beta in SA and potentially in all of Africa. We look forward to engaging the UK scientists and for constructive discussion with UK as we both fight the pandemic. All SA data is public at GISAID. https://t.co/QE1uXSeaVW
— Tulio de Oliveira (@Tuliodna) September 20, 2021
Another of his tweets states that the Beta variant “has not been detected for months”:
SARS-CoV-2 variants over time in South Africa – Beta has not been detected for months, Delta, the same as the U.K. and everywhere in the world, dominates >99%. C.1.2 has been ‘extinguished. Variants are not related to the science related to the travel ban from the U.K. pic.twitter.com/04nQAApX7L
— Tulio de Oliveira (@Tuliodna) September 18, 2021
There’s further back-up on this point by infectious diseases doctor Alastair McAlpine:
An official UK account spreading Covid-19 misinformation (Beta does not “circumvent vaccines” and Delta is the overwhelmingly predominant strain in SA).
The decision to keep SA on the red list was clearly political, not scientific. At least be honest. https://t.co/5PEx4XHNMk
— Alastair McAlpine, MD (@AlastairMcA30) September 20, 2021
At least SA and the UK have agreed to bring together scientists and experts from both countries to conduct further research on the Beta variant:
The tourism summit, which started on Monday, calls on all role players to reflect, reimagine and reignite a tourism sector in a bid to reawaken Africa, particularly in the wake of the affect of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Gatherings such as this summit are crucial to the industry’s survival. Through such events, we connect, share ideas and create a new positive narrative of Africa, one that shifts from a continent in turmoil to one that is recovering steadily and ready to do business,” Sisulu said.
It is the first pan-African summit of its kind, hosted in three cities at the same time: Johannesburg, Durban, and Lagos.
Hopefully, moving forward, common sense will prevail.
[imagesource: Angie Disa / TikTok] A wedding in Mexico became an even more memorable ev...
[imagesource: YouTube / VICE] Not all UFO sightings are created equal. Video footage...
[imagesource:here] It has been well documented that Meghan Markle is on the receiving e...
[imagesource: Twitter / @DineshKarthik] On Tuesday, even as the Proteas put on a clinic...
[imagesource: Netflix] I don't think we need to dress this one up much. Tiger King w...