SA EXPRESS. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

As of Monday 11 October, South Africans travelling to the United Kingdom will no longer have to endure an expensive 10-day hotel quarantine, as Covid-related entry rules have been eased.

The UK government noted that South Africa has been added to the list of countries and territories with approved proof of vaccination, as of 04h00 Monday 11 October. “If you arrived in England before then, you must follow the rules for people who are not fully vaccinated. If you arrive after that, you can use a vaccine certificate to prove your vaccination status.”

UK Health and Social Care secretary Sajid Javid said: “We’re now making it easier and cheaper for people to travel by allowing fully vaccinated travellers from non-red list countries to use lateral flow tests on day two of arrival, as long as they provide proof of use.”

Eligible full-vaccinated passengers and eligible under 18s returning can enter the UK with just a day 2 test. Before you arrive in the UK, you must book a travel test that takes place on or before day 2 after your arrival. The tests cost between R850 and R1,000.

You do not have to quarantine when you arrive in the UK, provided you have proof of your vaccination status. Children aged 4 and under do not need to take this test.

“Typically you’ll have to wait 24 to 36 hours to get your test result. Check with providers what their turnaround time is before you book your test,” the UK government said.

Approved vaccines

You must have had a complete course of one of the following vaccines at least 14 days before you arrive in England:

  • Oxford/AstraZeneca
  • Pfizer BioNTech
  • Moderna
  • Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)

However, minister of health, Dr Joe Phaahla said Friday that the country’s newly launched digital vaccine passport, will be accepted by the UK as proof of vaccination.

South African travel agencies are reporting a surge in reservations for travel to and from Britain, Bloomberg said. Some companies said they were being overwhelmed by the number of people looking to travel since the UK announced on Thursday it would lift restrictions on arrivals from 47 countries, including South Africa.

Andrew Stark from Flight Centre Travel Group said there was “a big surge” in reservations from the moment the change was announced. The UK is South Africa’s biggest tourism source market outside Africa with more than 400,000 British travellers traditionally visiting South Africa every year.

“It finally feels like we are seeing light at the end of a very long tunnel,” Sean Doyle, chief executive officer of British Airways, said in a statement. The airline will start ramping up flights to South Africa, with daily services to Johannesburg and twice-daily flights to Cape Town by year-end.

The Association Of Southern African Travel Agents (ASATA) said South African travellers must be able to make confident choices to travel to the UK, knowing exactly what the basic requirements are and without having to worry that their proof of vaccination might not be accepted.

Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA), chief executive officer, Busi Mavuso noted that the biggest economic damage caused by the Covid crisis has been to the hospitality and tourism sector.

“Thanks to the collapse of both domestic and international travel, these industries have been starved of clients. It is one of the most important sectors in that it provides employment to 1.5-million people, a larger proportion of which are low-skilled workers and women compared to the general economy.

“SA Tourism estimates that 87% of those employed in tourism are from a disadvantaged background. So, it is vitally important we do everything possible to get it back on its feet and eventually back to being a major driver of growth in employment.”

Mavuso said that while the change has come late, it is likely still in time for the all-important December holiday season when northern hemisphere tourists escape their winter for our sun.

“It will be important to the many businesses that have effectively been forced to shut down for the past 18 months that they have a good season. I would expect bookings to now spike as British tourists take advantage of the new opportunity.”

The key will be how able the decimated tourism industry will be to get back on its feet, said Mavuso.

“Government has often talked of support measures through the Covid-19 pandemic but its relatively limited support through the Tourism Equity Fund has been stalled in litigation. We need to be doing more to support viable businesses to get back on their feet and big business will be looking to partner with the government on interventions to do so.”

Member of the Western Cape Provincial Parliament, David Maynier pointed out that the UK is a key source market for tourism in the Western Cape. In 2019, approximately 194,900 UK tourists visited the Western Cape, spending on average R24,200 per tourist.

“The decision couldn’t have come at a better time allowing long-separated friends and families to reunite and the many tourists who regularly visit the Western Cape to enjoy our affordable and unique attractions over the summer season.

“Of course, this will also provide much-needed relief for the tourism and hospitality sector supporting our economic recovery in the Western Cape.”

Maynier said that the first British Airways flight between London Heathrow and Cape Town International Airport is scheduled to resume from 1 November 2021.

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