The UK government has agreed to consider scientific input from SA regarding the state of Covid-19 in the country for its next travel review, which is due within two weeks, the department of health said on Monday.

Scientific experts from the UK and SA had met to discuss the latest trends concerning Covid-19, which comes amid controversy about why travel to and from SA is still labelled high risk, even as infection rates slow.

Some critics have pointed to an easing of restrictions on countries with less robust scientific surveillance of the novel coronavirus, while SA officially exited its third wave on Monday.

Discussions included testing strategies, and the prevalence and risk posed to SA’s vaccination programme by “variants of concern”, the department said in a statement.

“The insights provided will feed into the next review of UK border measures, which is due to take place within the next fortnight.”

The UK high commission said earlier in September that it remained “concerned about the continued presence of Beta given its potential ability to circumvent vaccines”.

Beta is a variant of the coronavirus first identified in SA.

The UK has adopted a traffic light system, or red, amber, green, to denote various risk levels. From October 4, it is moving to a system of a single red list of countries and simplified travel measures for arrivals from the rest of the world.

SA’s red-list status means that travellers returning to the UK from SA must spend 10 days in quarantine at a cost of more than £2,000 (R40,500), while those without citizenship or residency are barred outright.

“The UK expressed its willingness to take forward discussions with the SA government on this matter,” the department said on Monday.

“The UK and SA governments both support and recognise the importance of vaccination as a way out of the Covid-19 pandemic,” it said.

With Katharine Child



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