African countries

UK removes 11 African countries from travel ‘red list’ as Omicron spreads rapidly nationwide

Topline

British officials announcement they will remove 11 African countries from the country’s red list on Wednesday, saying travel restrictions are no longer effective in containing the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus as it is now widespread in the UK, while the ban more Strict US restrictions on travel from certain African countries remain in place, despite criticism.

Highlights

The red list requires travelers from 11 countries – Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe – to pay and quarantine in government-approved hotels for 10 days after entering the UK.

Sajid David, Britain’s secretary of state for health and social care, said on Tuesday that the Red List was “now less effective” as the government detected community transmission of omicron and it spread across the whole world.

Javid said he was “very persuaded” by calls from those who have already spent thousands of pounds staying in government-approved hotels, and hoped to make an announcement about the refund soon.

In a televised statement on Sunday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned of a ‘tidal wave’ of omicron cases expected to hit the UK in the coming weeks, adding ‘it is now clear that two doses of vaccine are simply not enough to give the level of protection which we all need”.

UK National Health Service website crushed Tuesday due to overwhelming demand for Covid-19 recalls.

The United States has yet to lift its travel ban on eight African countries, although Dr Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, noted last week, officials are reviewing the ban and aiming to lift it “within a reasonable time.”

Key Context

Following the initial detection of the omicron variant in Southern Africa, many countries have instituted travel bans or quarantine measures for travelers from the region. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization, declared that the bans would be ineffective and found it “concerning” that these countries would be penalized for detecting the new variant first. Last week, Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the UK Sarafa Tunji called the country’s red list, “travel apartheid”.

Surprising fact

After the bans were imposed, a Dutch health agency discovered the omicron variant was in the Netherlands at least a week before its detection in southern Africa, identifying it in samples taken on 19 and 23 November.

Chief Spokesperson

In an opinion piece for the New York Times Saturday, Dr. Saad Omer, director of the Yale Institute for Global Health, called President Biden’s travel ban is “too selective” and warning bans like these discourage countries from reporting the detection of new variants. “[Biden’s] the travel ban to southern African countries is not justifiable by science,” he wrote.