CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) – South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Thursday he had held talks with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a bid to remove South Africa from a “red list “travel that bans visitors to the UK due to COVID-19.
The UK restrictions also mean that anyone traveling from Britain to South Africa is subject to a mandatory 10-day quarantine when they return home to Britain, even if they are fully vaccinated and tested negative for the coronavirus.
Ramaphosa said he “presented the case of South Africa” to Johnson, “which he understood very well”.
“We hope for a positive result when the subject is examined in the next few days by their scientists,” said Ramaphosa.
The South African government said last week it was puzzled by the UK’s decision to keep it on the list while removing other countries like Kenya and Egypt and easing restrictions on their travelers . South African scientists have gone further and criticized their British counterparts for their ignorance of the pandemic situation in South Africa.
Ramaphosa said British scientists were concerned about the beta variant of the coronavirus, which was first seen in South Africa. However, the beta variant only accounts for a tiny proportion of cases in South Africa, experts say, and the delta variant is largely dominant, as it does in the UK.
South Africa was one of many countries angered by the UK’s updated travel restrictions, with some accusing Britain of discrimination for apparently not recognizing vaccines received in other countries.
South Africa is desperate to be taken off the list, more than anything to lure British tourists put off by being forced to pay for an expensive hotel quarantine stay on their return home. Britain traditionally supplies more tourists to South Africa than any other country outside Africa, and South Africa’s hard-hit tourism industry and struggling economy are in need of a boost inch.
In a speech live on national television, Ramaphosa also announced the easing of virus-related restrictions in South Africa and said its third wave was now officially over, with new cases rising from more than 20,000 a day for the wave peaked at an average of just over 1,800 per day over the past seven days. South Africa would revert to Lockdown Level 1, the lowest alert, from Friday, Ramaphosa said.
This means that the nightly curfew hours have been relaxed, bars and restaurants will be allowed to stay open a little later, and alcohol can be sold under normal licensing laws. Alcohol sales were previously banned on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The number of people allowed at gatherings has also been increased.
It wasn’t all good news.
Ramaphosa warned that the vaccination program in South Africa – Africa’s worst-hit country by the virus – was still “far too slow” and urged South Africans to get vaccinated if they want to return to a normal lifestyle.
He said South Africans could soon attend sporting events, music concerts and other cultural events, all of which have been banned since the start of the pandemic, but only if vaccination rates increase.
South Africa has set a target of delivering between 300,000 and 400,000 doses per day, but has averaged 150,000 daily doses in recent weeks. Africa’s most developed economy has fully vaccinated less than 15% of its 60 million people and has recorded more than 2.9 million cases of the virus and more than 87,000 deaths from COVID-19.
South Africa will now administer vaccines on certain weekends, which it had not done before, to boost the numbers.
Ramaphosa also said the government will introduce a national vaccination certificate, possibly advising that businesses, places of worship, and bars and restaurants may soon require a vaccination certificate to enter.