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UK politicians may not be fully aware of the outrage the recent decision to keep South Africa on the red travel list has sparked in the country. Given its key role in Africa, the Brics and G20, such a response is certainly not helpful in deepening ties with the country.
For all the outrage and accusations of racism – which has become the predominant narrative in South Africa – the bigger problem I see is the “anti-scientific” nature of the decision.
In fact, South Africa is ahead of many industrialized nations in its widespread use of genome sequencing and tracking of Covid, yet has been penalized for detecting very few beta variant samples in recent months, while the latest data from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases of South Africa suggests no cases have been detected in September.
This is despite the fact that, according to the WHO, beta is likely to circulate at low levels in 131 countries, many of which are not on the red list but simply do not include it with as detailed a tracking as South Africa. All of this was explained this week at a meeting of scientists from both countries.
If Global Britain is about new alliances between science and innovation, then South Africa is in the wrong bucket for the wrong reasons.
There is an opportunity to correct this problem with the next Red List review this week – let’s hope science actually trumps.
Peter Attard Montalto