A petition to allow travel between SA and the UK is gaining support

Business Insider SA

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  • South African travellers have been banned from entering the UK for almost eight months.
  • A petition started by a London-based PR firm aims to have South Africa removed from the "red list".
  • It's gathered almost 10,000 signatures and the UK government will soon need to respond to grievances.
  • At 100,000 signatures, the issue of travel between South Africa and the UK will be considered for debate in parliament.
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A petition aimed at removing South Africa from the United Kingdom's "red list" is gaining momentum with more than 9,000 signatures recorded in less than a week. The UK government is required to respond to the petition once it receives 10,000 signatures.

Travel between South Africa and the UK has been restricted for almost eight months. The discovery of the Covid-19 Beta variant in December 2020 saw the UK government impose swift and firm restrictions on travellers from South Africa. Many countries followed suit and by March, South African travellers were the most restricted in the world.

READ | South Africans are using Montenegro to avoid UK red list – here’s why it’s a great option

And, while many of these countries have begun to ease their restrictions – especially for fully vaccinated travellers – South Africa remains firmly on the UK's "red list". The UK introduced a "traffic light" system in May, which categorises countries, according to a Covid-19 risk analysis, into green, amber, and red lists. These lists are updated every month.

Travellers from countries on the green list are free to visit the UK without needing to quarantine. Fully vaccinated travellers from amber list countries are also free from the mandatory quarantine. Travel from red list countries, like South Africa and 59 others, is strictly limited to returning residents and citizens who need to quarantine for ten days in a state-managed hotel.

These ongoing restrictions continue to have a devastating impact on South Africa's already embattled tourism industry, with the UK having been the biggest overseas source market prior to the pandemic.

But the UK's traffic light system is coming under fire, with organisations questioning the science behind the restrictions. The Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (Satsa) is one such organisation fighting to have South Africa removed from the UK's red list and has enlisted a London-based PR firm to lobby on its behalf.

"It was incumbent on us to move swiftly and present a data-driven and scientific case to the decision-makers in the UK, something that our competitor destinations had been actively doing for months," said Satsa CEO, David Frost.

"It was clear that generating scientific reports for our own use and conversing amongst ourselves about the issue would have little effect."

Satsa hopes that the lobbying efforts will see travel between the UK and South Africa return by October.

UK travel South Africa
UK constituencies' support for the petition

Part of its plan has been to officially petition the UK government. The petition, created by Ben Cope of Eterna Partners on 5 August, amassed more than 9,300 signatures by Monday. Once the petition reaches the 10,000-mark, the UK government is required to respond to the grievances. With 100,000 signatures, the petition is considered for debate in parliament.

Only British citizens and UK residents can create a petition and, unsurprisingly, the bulk of support has come from areas popular with South African expats.

A map which tracks the number of signatures according to constituencies, shows that largest portion of support within the UK comes from residents in Wimbledon, Putney, Chelsea and Fulham, and Battersea.

Note: This article has been updated to reflect that the UK government, and not the UK's Petitions Committee, is required to respond to the petition once it receives 10,000 signatures. Once the petition has 100,000 signatures, the topic is considered for debate in parliament. 

(Compiled by Luke Daniel)

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