SA to engage UK over temporary ban on flights
Image Credit: SANews

The South African government says it has noted the announcement by the United Kingdom (UK) to temporarily ban all flights from the Southern parts of Africa, including South Africa, from entering the UK due to the detection of a new Coronavirus variant, B.1.1.529.

South Africa confirmed on Thursday that it has detected the new Coronavirus variant B.1.1.529 in the country.

UK Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, announced on Thursday evening that six African countries, including South Africa, would be added to the red list, with flights being temporarily banned from Friday at midday.

The other countries are Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia. (Israel has stopped travel to the same countries, as well as Mozambique.)

No cases have been identified in the UK. However, in a statement, the UK government said it was taking “precautionary” measures to protect public health and the progress made so far through their successful vaccination programme.

“The variant includes a large number of spike protein mutations as well as mutations in other parts of the viral genome. These are potentially biologically significant mutations, which may change the behaviour of the virus concerning vaccines, treatments and transmissibility. More investigation is required,” the UK government said.

While South Africa said it respects the right of all countries to take the necessary precautionary measures to protect its citizens, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) said the UK’s decision seems to have been “rushed”.

“Even the World Health Organisation is yet to advise on the next steps,” said the department.

Minister Naledi Pandor said: “Our immediate concern is the damage that this decision will cause to both the tourism industries and businesses of both countries.”

According to the department, the officials will engage the UK government with the view to persuade them to reconsider the decision. –

EU may also place South Africa on Red List

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the EU Commission, tweeted on Friday morning that the EU Commission “will propose, in close coordination with Member States, to activate the emergency brake to stop air travel from the southern African region due to the variant of concern B.1.1.529.”