UK confirms South Africa, 10 other countries to be taken off 'red list'

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The UK has removed South Africa and 10 other countries from its "red list" of travel restrictions.

Travellers from countries on the list were required to do a mandatory ten-day hotel quarantine. It included South Africa, Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The countries were put on the red list in late November as a precaution after the Omicron variant was identified by scientists in SA.

David Frost, CEO of South Africa Tourism Services (SATSA), representative body for in-bound tourism businesses in South Africa, said this was welcome news but red-listing southern African countries even for just three weeks caused incalculable damage to jobs and livelihoods in the region, with little discernible benefit to health outcomes in the UK. 

"The UK government must now consign this blunt instrument to history and recognise the devastating impact red lists have to confidence amongst the travelling public."

The red listing also meant Britons who were already in listed countries had to quarantine in designated hotels for ten days upon returning home, at a cost of R50 500 per person or R67 200 per couple. Travellers from South Africa will apparently now be allowed to self-isolate at a location of their choice.

The decision to remove the 11 nations from the list follows hints from the UK last week. Health Secretary Sajid Javid told Parliament: "Very soon, in the days and weeks that lie ahead, if, as I think is likely, we see many more infections and this variant becomes the dominant variant, there will be less need to have any kind of travel restrictions at all."

* This article was updated about the self-isolation at 18:30 on Tuesday. 

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