SA-UK red list battle: Has the damage been done?
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There are talks that South Africa may be off the UK Red List soon, but has the damage been already done?
The GOV.UK, the United Kingdom public sector information website, doesn't paint South Africa in a good light-which may discourage future travellers to the country.
"There are regular protest marches, demonstrations, and periodic incidents of public disorder across South Africa, which can become violent," the website details, highlighting the July 2021 civil unrest.
"There is a high level of crime including rape and murder in South Africa. Most violent crimes tend to occur in townships, isolated areas and away from the normal tourist destinations. However, armed robberies have taken place in other places, for example, one leading to the death of a tourist on Table Mountain in Cape Town," it further stated.
It also added that "terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in South Africa" and "British nationals are increasingly being targeted by scam artists".
While the aim is to alert travellers of potential dangers when visiting South Africa, it does evoke a negative stigma on the destination. A stigma that it is unsafe, ridden with crime and other negatives that would keep them away.
South Africa has been a top destination for UK travellers for years. As per Stats SA, the UK topped the overseas visitor list for South Africa in both 2019 and 2020.
The South African travel industry has been lobbying for the country's removal off the red list. There has also been a petition by Ben Cope to remove South Africa from the travel red list. It has since garnered over 33K signatures.
Yet, as IOL Travel reported earlier this month, the UK government won't budge.
In response to a UK petition, the UK Department for Transport revealed why they won't remove South Africa from the red list.
"Ministerial decisions on allocations to the red list are informed by the latest scientific data and public health advice to protect public health and the vaccine rollout from variants of concern," it explained.
"At the most recent review on 4 August, it was decided that South Africa would remain on the red list as South Africa continues to present a high public health risk to the UK from known variants of concern.
"We will not compromise on the progress we have made on our vaccine programme by allowing people to freely mix abroad and return or travel to the UK without proper checks and procedures. This is just the start for opening international travel, with the UK leading the way with a robust system," the department stated in their response.
Only time will tell whether South Africa will be removed from the red list, and if it does, will UK travellers visit the country's warm shores?