Red list ruling ‘significant’ for both UK and SA

‘The UK must take a balanced approach in future considerations of South Africa.’
Image: Bloomberg

I was disappointed by the announcement by UK authorities on Friday that South Africa would remain on its “red list” of countries. This decision is bad for development in South Africa and bad for the two countries’ economic ties.

Travellers from red-listed countries are required to quarantine on arrival for 11 nights in government-controlled facilities at considerable expense. This is a dramatic disincentive to tourists and an effective barrier to businesspeople as they can seldom afford 10 days of forced isolation. The consequences for both South African and Britain are significant.

It is difficult to understand the decision. 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.

The Beta variant is no longer prevalent in South Africa, making up just 1% of infections. Just like in the UK, the majority of infections are caused by the Delta variant. The UK’s decision appears to be motivated by the presence of the Beta variant, yet its science on this is outdated. Contrary to initial indications, vaccines have proven effective against the Beta variant including Astra Zeneca, which has been widely used in the UK. The Beta variant is less than 1% of new infections in South Africa. New variants discovered in South Africa have proved to be less infectious and are reducing. South Africa has among the best genomic sequencing capabilities in the world and therefore there should be a high confidence that it would identify any dangerous new variant quickly.

The UK is now an outlier in its treatment of South Africa-sourced travellers. The European Union, Canada and United States now allow vaccinated travellers from South Africa without further restriction. This flies in the face of the UK’s post-Brexit strategy of becoming “Global Britain” – indeed the European Union is proving far more global than the UK.

The relationship between Britain and South Africa is an important economic corridor with Britain exporting R62 billion to South Africa in the year to end-March while it imported R90 billion. 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.

In advance of the decision, BLSA wrote to UK prime minister Boris Johnson urging him to reassess restrictions on Southern Africa which frustrate trade and have a severe impact on the lives of millions who depend on travel for business, education, sport and cultural exchange. The letter was co-signed by BLSA members including large multinationals with operations in both countries.

Before the pandemic, 440 000 UK travellers visited South Africa in 2019, making it the most important overseas market for tourists to South Africa.

They spend R10 billion during their visits. This activity is a key part of our tourism industry which directly employs 657 000 people, 87% of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds. The UK’s decision therefore has significantly negative effects on development in South Africa.

The lack of a clear rationale for the UK’s decision risks creating resentment towards the country at a crucial time in its engagement with the rest of the world. This is particularly sensitive for South Africans who have close cultural and familial ties to the UK. Apart from business links, many families split between the two countries have been unable to see each other for over 18 months because of the travel restrictions. This has been exacerbated by constant stories of the poor treatment of travellers in the UK’s government-controlled quarantine centres, despite the R46 000 cost of the 11 night quarantine.

Reviews of the red list take place every three weeks. The UK must take a balanced approach in future considerations of South Africa. There needs to be clarity on the scientific basis for the risk categorisation of South Africa, and due regard for the business, cultural and developmental relationship between the two countries.

Busi Mavuso is CEO of Business Leadership South Africa.


Sort by:
  • Oldest first
  • Newest first
  • Top voted

You must be signed in and an Insider Gold subscriber to comment.


SA has consistently voted anti UK and US on every resolution at the UN, whilst pro China and Russia on everything. This decision, of course, has nothing to do with politics, but this Govt. just refuses to see the big picture …. and never will. Cap in hand is irrelevant today.

so this is political and not about the virus, is that what u r saying.

Anyway last I checked China, Germany and US are bigger trading partners to SA than UK. maybe someone can clarify, it says in the article UK is second to EU.

Hate to state the obvious, but from a UK perspective they obviously don’t need us to visit as much as we need them to visit. But don’t worry, I’m sure tourism from our political friends in Russia, China, Cuba, Venezuela, Palestine and Zimbabwe will pick up soon.

Elsewhere I was taken to task for my anti-imperialist stance. Your comment has made me realise that I was wrong. Much as I do not like it, we cannot bleat when the UK and the USA give us a fat klap every now and then. We never seem to support them but we are quick to the feeding trough for hand-outs.

Let’s be straight. UK is not a paradise for holidays – terrible weather, overpriced and now a mission to get a visa.

Please SAffers, consider central and eastern Europe such as Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia etc for future holidays. Germany is cheaper and has better infrastructure than UK!

Stop pandering to a dead empire and look at other places if you want a holiday. There is a reason why Brits go to Europe for holidays and not the other way around!

I feel for our tourism industry but we need to market to other countries and stop trying to pick the lowest hanging fruit. Central to Eastern Europe can become a great source of income if marketed properly but also depends on the regime’s ability to curb crime and general misconduct.

Only time will tell but I am heading off to Eastern Europe where I can walk everywhere and be able to live in peace. Cheers SA, it was fun but its over

Bollocks. People are going to continue having London on the top of their lists in Europe, or near the top, forever. I don’t know where you went in Germany but you obviously were travelling cheap. Brits don’t holiday in the UK? BS. Of course add the incentive that you can get to Croatia for £ 30 and it’s no wonder that you find British tourists everywhere, but UK holidays remain very popular. Why don’t you take your prejudice since you obviously vcannot afford to live here, nor qualify, and go for a long walk on your own in Serbia

Me thinks you doth protest too much from that mud plugging island. I have travelled there extensively since 1989 and I have family living there. We also opened an office there as we supplied software, support and services to many of the Boroughs using my software.
I can honestly tell you that my sisters entire and extended family and friends (all born and bred there and they stay in an upmarket area in Surrey) cannot wait to leave for their annual August continental holidays – and they even yearn for their every 3 year South African holidays (warts and all). The reason – London is not what is used to be. Crime is out of control, low value for money indices, prison sentences are hilarious and people are rated as amongst the most miserable in the world. Am watching a series on DSTV about the huge number of Brits buying up Chateau’s in France to escape the shackles of Blighty……I wonder why!
In many instances money is not the only priority – Asia, Eastern Europe and even Spain offer exceptional holiday value and business opportunities.

Maybe you don’t travel on a “Greem Mamba”, my wife is from there and due to the money making VISA they slapped on the RSA a few years ago we have gone elsewhere or family have come here. I know some will say that was our fault but the price being charged for the VISA was not. It was much more expensive than a US (maybe the same but valid a lot longer), Schengen, China …… etc.. I suppose you can overcharge here as it concerns non-voters. Also must mention that a Schengen got a fixed return date with no price scale. The UK VISA there was a hefty charge to get done quickly. So in my opinion much more expensive than even Western Europe.

Funny enough on our travels there over one Christmas period a telephone book thick “Timeshare” catalogue was delivered to our hosts. The perfect time to do this, the come down after Christmas, miserably cold and wet with catalogue on warm exotic destinations, I think there was a lot of sales.

@ Gil – Crime is “out of control” in London? Are you insane? I guess I should come back to Johannesburg then. I also happen to live in the best part of Surrey and I can promise you that you will safer at night in any part of London than on any public street in Johannesburg at night. I’m glad you think DSTV is a scientific resource. Funny that people risk their lives to get from the French coast to England to do the jobs the locals won’t. Sanctimonious twit

Oh dear Duncan_A. Did I strike nerve? Please explain why all the folks I worked with in UK couldn’t wait for the Mallora, Ibiza holidays? Most couldn’t wait to hop across to France to buy food and goods cheaper than UK.

Most went to Dubai to seek their fortune when things were good and only wanted to go to the sunny places.

Keep your Blighty, I found my paradise and it doesn’t include baked beans as a national dish

Following this incredulous decision, I think it is time for a visa to be applied to all UK visitors to SA once travel is restarted… I would suggest £50pp and this be put into a tourism fund to help tourism in SA recover from the pandemic.

Agree with this sentiment 100%.
Sadly the same should apply to New Zealand. I have been travelling to NZ for the past 18 years (sadly it is more out of necessity as my daughter was illegally removed from SA in the 90’s and now does not recognize SA as her land of birth -sad), and then they also suddenly slapped those stupid Visa restrictions which is just a money making extortionist program.

Gil you really are unhappy with the whole world! You appear to be stuck with no choices hence the outrageous claims.

I have no problem in central London with regard to personal security but can’t say the same for JHB.

Haven’t seen to many Brits fleeing to SA!

The decision by the UK is no more ludicrous than any of the regulations regarding this 3 weeks to flatten the curve ‘pandemic’. Business’s should have stood up for themselves and collectively told the .gov to shove it long ago. This abuse by government will not end until the people say ENOUGH and no more.

“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.”

If only the UK had a population of only 37 million!

Story looses credulity.

Instead of lobbying to get off the UK’s Red list, SA’s Govt should be campaigning for a permanent no visa ruling from the UK, as it used to be.

The Red list thing is just a Red Herring.

Well said.

Prove that the “SA passport” issue has been sorted out and I am sure the rest will fall into place.

However given our record for maladminstaration and corruption I fear we may have a way to go.

What does not make sense about your argument is that we must jump off the Red List but just accept perpetual visa asymmetry requirements!

Are you stupid or an Expat or both?

I think the real point may be political risk? The Poms look at the govt of Turkey and of SA and say ‘who can we trust to deliver the vaccine and roll out heath care?’ – I would imagine that’s the nub of it. Nothing personal or nefarious. Just like our passports, ID cards and drivers licenses are not well received overseas, due to rampant Home Affairs corruption, so they must be thinking ‘I’m sure you can buy a vaccine passport for R1000’. I’d do the same. SA is rotten to the core

UK should ban SA…. Sanctions are in order!

Boris Johnson is a bigger prick than the Covid jab!

End of comments.



Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Moneyweb newsletters

Instrument Details  

You do not have any portfolios, please create one here.
You do not have an alert portfolio, please create one here.

Follow us: