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Vaccines Highlight UK’s Obsolete ‘Red List’ Travel System


The advent of Covid-19, something the world has never experienced before, has forced our way of life to adjust for a while. As the virus made its way across the world like an itchy blanket, countries and businesses closed their doors and individuals huddled in their homes. All the things we used to do – socialize, travel, go to work – had come to an end for the foreseeable future. Vaccines have been touted as the path to freedom – and now that they’re here, a number of potholes on that path have apparently delayed the journey. South Africa, a country whose economy is heavily dependent on tourism, remains on the UK’s red list. This remains the case despite the fact that the British authorities have removed Kenya and Pakistan from this restrictive list. Moreover, this remains the case even after the United States has said it will allow entry of foreigners if they are both fully vaccinated and tested negative for Covid-19. As Jonathan Katzenellenbogen writes, “banning visitors based on the country they have traveled from does not make sense if they are vaccinated and test negative. – Jarryd Neves

Obsolete: UK traffic light system

By Jonathan Katzenellenbogen *

Over the past two years, many governments have put in place drastic and misguided regulations to curb the Covid-19 pandemic. In the absence of vaccines, travel should be restricted. But many governments still maintain outdated and damaging regulations in a fundamentally changed environment.

Starting in November, the United States will allow entry of foreigners if they are fully vaccinated and test negative for Covid. This makes a lot more sense than what general bans on direct travel from certain countries are in fact. Vaccine and negative test requirements are based on an individual’s specific status, rather than categorizing a country from which they travel. If people do not have a vaccination passport or if the documentation is unreliable, they could be tested to see if they have the antibodies indicating vaccination. And most importantly, there is a reduced risk of the double punctures acting like spreaders.

Prohibit visitors

Banning visitors based on the country they traveled from does not make sense if they are vaccinated and are negative. In addition, they could be at a higher risk if they are not vaccinated and come from an area with a high prevalence of Covid, although the country as a whole does not have a high incidence of the disease.

Although the world has switched to widespread vaccination, the UK appears determined to stick to its traffic light system, under which 56 countries, including South Africa, still remain on a ‘red list. “. In this system, travelers from South Africa and other Red List countries have an inconvenient option. They must either spend ten days in a country that is not on the Red List, or isolate themselves for the same period in a quarantine hotel recognized by Her Majesty’s government, at a cost of R40,000.

Australia has a stricter set of rules, which prohibit entry to all foreigners except permanent residents. Australia’s and New Zealand’s goal is to seal themselves off from the outside world. There are also strict restrictions on travel between Australian states. We may well ask ourselves: why bother to vaccinate if we want to maintain such strict and economically damaging restrictions?

For us, redlisting means that up to 450,000 UK tourists could stay away from the fun and sun on our beaches for a second year.

red list

According to the UK government, the Red List is made up of countries where there are “known variants of concern, known high-risk variants under investigation or due to very high prevalence in the country or territory. of Covid-19.

It may sound like a list of objective criteria that have been thought through by the best medical minds. That’s far from being the case. In practice, the entire UK traffic light system is full of bad science and inconsistencies. It has become an “it depends” system where a whole bunch of other factors can override any supposedly objective criteria. This means that it lacks transparency, that it is inconsistent and unfair. It is also outdated because it was designed for an era prior to the deployment of vaccines.

Since its creation, it is clear that a considerable importance in the inscription or not of a country on the Red List is its diplomatic weight with the United Kingdom. In recent days, there has been a spate of Covid cases and deaths among the unvaccinated in the southern and midwestern United States. The seven-day average of Covid deaths in the United States is now at levels similar to what it was in the outbreak last year. This should warrant a review to see if the country should be on the Red List.

India was not placed on the red list even during its waves of Covid and the emergence of the Delta variant. The most credible explanation for India’s favorable treatment is that after Brexit the UK is desperate to strike a trade deal with New Delhi.

It is highly likely that South Africa, even with immense problems in the public health system, has a much better ability to test people for Covid than Kenya and Pakistan, two of the countries that have been taken out of ” Red List ”last week.

Meaning of the pandemic

The numbers of Covid cases may better show the direction of the pandemic’s spread, rather than being viewed as an accurate measure of the disease’s actual incidence. Only the very sick could show up for a test, giving numbers that could be much lower than the actual incidence. In addition, tests must be completed within a certain period of time and samples properly stored, which leaves room for further inaccuracies.

In countries with a low median age, many people with the disease may not experience any symptoms and go untested, while playing the role of propagators. Then there is the problem of the gap between the actual results and those which are made public. While the health services could inflate the numbers to access larger budgets, the statistics could also be reduced to show the world that a health service is doing a good job in controlling Covid.

Some of the countries removed from the Red List last week had apparently low Covid rates. At last count, according to the Reuters Global Covid-19 Tracker, Kenya had a Covid-19 infection rate of 5 people per 100,000 in the past seven days. Pakistan had a Covid infection rate of 8 infections per 100,000 people, according to the Reuters Tracker. South Africa’s Covid rate of 41 per 100,000 is considerably higher than either of these countries, but is also likely much more accurate.

Placement criteria

The criteria for placement on the red list include “known variants” and variants under investigation. Finding new variants requires expert skills and scientific resources, which many countries lack. It was Professor Tulio de Oliveira, an expert in bioinformatics, a subfield of biology and informatics at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, who identified the beta variant of Covid. This could not have been done in many other countries and it is highly likely that there are many variations that have not yet been identified.

The UK government appears to be easing the traffic light system and last week made it easier for residents of countries not on the Red List to surrender. But that shows no sign of allowing people from Red List countries, who are fully vaccinated and test negative, to enter the country without quarantine.

It is almost a rule of thumb of the government not to quickly remove regulations that no longer serve any purpose. Politicians and officials are probably loath to demolish the system and then, even if it must be unwarranted, find themselves blamed in the event of a new wave of Covid. And in more repressive countries, maintaining social distancing and travel restrictions has become a useful way to quell protests and disrupt election campaigns. The need to enforce Covid regulations also provides a good excuse to delay the elections.

It will be a long and difficult road to get out of the rules and regulations imposed by the government. But vaccines are now effective enough to show lame excuses by governments for greater control.

  • The writer’s opinions are not necessarily those of the Daily Friend or the IRR
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  • Jonathan Katzenellenbogen is a Johannesburg-based freelance financial journalist. His articles have been published on DefenseWeb, Politicsweb, as well as in a number of foreign publications. Jonathan has also worked for Business Day and as a journalist and TV and radio presenter.

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