JOHANNESBURG — South African travel agencies report a surge in reservations for travel to and from Britain on Friday ahead of the country being removed from the U.K.’s COVID-19 red list next week.
Some companies said they were being overwhelmed by the number of people looking to travel since the British government announced it will lift restrictions on travellers arriving from 47 countries, including South Africa. The change will come into effect on Monday.
The decision to keep South Africa on the red list had been criticized by the country’s government, tourism operators and scientists, leading to a series of discussions between the leaders of both countries and their respective health experts.
The British rules banned anyone who had been in a red list country in the previous 10 days from visiting Britain. The only U.K. and Irish nationals or returning residents were allowed to enter from South Africa or other red list countries, and they faced a mandatory 10-day quarantine.
The rules also severely limited British tourists visiting South Africa as they were advised by their government they “should not” travel to red list countries and faced expensive hotel quarantine stays on their return home if they did.
The U.K. is South Africa’s biggest tourism source market outside Africa with more than 400,000 British travellers ordinarily visiting every year, according to official figures. That figure plunged to less than 10,000 so far this year because of the pandemic.
Flight Centre, one of South Africa’s biggest travel agencies, said it was struggling to cope with the demand sparked by the British announcement.
All of the 22 other African countries still on Britain’s red list will also be removed on Monday, leaving the strictest travel restrictions in place for just seven countries: Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.