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South Africa is finally removed from the UK’s red list – and vaccine cards will be accepted

  • South Africa has finally been removed from the United Kingdom's red list.
  • This comes as part of the latest updates to the United Kingdom's controversial traffic light system which regulates travel according to country-specific Covid-19 risk factors.
  • South Africa spent more than five months on the red list, with travel restrictions stretching as far back as December 2020.
  • Now, fully vaccinated travellers from South Africa will be allowed to enter the United Kingdom without needing to quarantine.
  • The latest update, which comes into effect on 11 October, also approves South Africa’s proof of vaccination.
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South Africa will finally be removed from the United Kingdom's restrictive red list which has prohibited travel between the two countries since May. 

The delisting will come into effect on Monday 11 October, the UK's Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, announced on Thursday evening.

Only seven countries will now remain on the UK's red list: Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela. All other countries – including South Africa – are now classified as "rest of world" or ROW.

The change in South Africa's status, which has been on the UK's red list for more than five months – with travel already restricted between the countries from as far back as December 2020 – is part of the latest round of updates to the UK's controversial traffic light system.

Previously, the only travellers permitted to enter the UK from the red-listed South Africa were British or Irish nationals and those with residence rights. These travellers have, however, been subjected to a mandatory ten-day quarantine in a state-managed hotel at their own cost of £2,285 (R44,800), regardless of their vaccination status.

This mandatory quarantine requirement has, in turn, had a devastating impact on South Africa's already embattled tourism sector. It's estimated that the economy has lost R790 million for every month South Africa has been on the red list, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.

The UK has traditionally been South Africa's biggest source of international tourists. Travel groups, tourism organisations, and government departments have spent months lobbying for South Africa to be removed from the red list, arguing that the data used to inform the restrictions was incorrect.

South Africa's prolonged red list stay has been attributed to the UK's Joint Biosecurity Centre identifying the Beta variant as an ever-present risk. This, despite South Africa's Covid-19 caseload being driven by the Delta variant – also the dominant in the UK – for most of 2021.

South Africa's removal from the red list comes as welcome relief for the tourism industry, especially within the context of the upcoming summer season.

Its new placement means that fully vaccinated travellers from South Africa will not need to quarantine when arriving in the UK. Travellers are still required to complete a passenger locator form and provide a negative Covid-19 test result.

Unvaccinated travellers will still be allowed to enter the UK but will need to quarantine at home or in their place of accommodation for ten days.

The UK considers travellers fully vaccinated if they've completed a course of an approved vaccine at least 14 days before arriving. Those vaccinated outside of the UK must be able to provide approved proof of vaccination.

In addition to its removal from the red list, South Africa’s vaccine certificates will also be regarded as valid proof of vaccination by the UK government from 11 October.

This coincides with South Africa’s department of health putting the final touches on a digital vaccine certificate which is due to go live on Friday.

(Compiled by Luke Daniel)