Ramaphosa lobbies British prime minister Johnson over travel ban

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said Thursday he has had discussions with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson aimed at removing South Africa from a travel “red list” that bans visitors to the United Kingdom because of Covid-19.

The UK’s restrictions also mean anyone traveling from Britain to South Africa faces a mandatory 10-day quarantine when returning home to Britain, even if they are fully vaccinated and test negative for the coronavirus.

Ramaphosa said he “put South Africa’s case” to Johnson, “which he understood very well.”

“We hope for a positive outcome when the subject comes up for review in the coming days by their scientists,” Ramaphosa said, speaking during a televised address to the nation.

The South African government said last week it was puzzled at the UK’s decision to keep it on the list while removing other nations like Kenya and Egypt and easing restrictions for their travellers. South African scientists went further and criticised their British counterparts for being ignorant of South Africa’s pandemic situation.

Ramaphosa said British scientists were concerned over the beta variant of the coronavirus, which was first observed in South Africa. However, the beta variant now only accounts for a tiny proportion of cases in South Africa, experts say, and the delta variant is overwhelmingly dominant, as it is in the UK.

South Africa was one of a number of nations angered by the UK’s updated travel restrictions, with some accusing Britain of discrimination for seemingly not recognising vaccines received in other countries.

South Africa is desperate to be removed from the list, more than anything to entice back British tourists put off by being forced to pay for an expensive quarantine stay at a hotel on their return home.

Britain traditionally provides more tourists to South Africa than any other country outside Africa, and South Africa’s hard-hit tourism industry and struggling economy need a boost. – AP

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