Passengers slam Britain’s ‘travel apartheid’ rules targeting Africa
The UK imposed travel restrictions on southern African nations, including Nigeria, late last month, in an attempt to prevent a breakout of new infections as the Omicron variant of coronavirus spreads.
But the countries concerned and their citizens have criticised the travel bans for their apparently selective nature, Al Jazeera said in a report.
The restrictions were announced with little notice, and many have been forced to decide whether to cancel their Christmas plans.
When the UK relaxed travel rules earlier this year, a traffic light system was introduced. Each colour indicated a different threat level – travel to countries in the green list meant that people would not have to isolate when they returned.
Red-list countries would result in hotel quarantine measures. The system was abandoned in October, but due to the discovery of the Omicron variant, the red list was revived.
It currently includes South Africa, Nigeria, Malawi, Botswana, Nambia, Angola, Eswatini, Lesotho, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique.
Travelers from those countries now have to enter hotel quarantine at their own expense – a sum of 2,285 UK pounds ($3,018) for 10 days.
Critics say the cost is too high, especially as many travelers could isolate in their own homes.
Moreover, only UK or Irish nationals, or UK residents, are allowed to fly in from red list countries. Those without UK residency would have to stay in a second country for 10 days to enter the UK.
Meanwhile, little is known about the transmissibility or severity of the Omicron variant, which was first reported in South Africa, but later found to have been detected in the Netherlands at an earlier date.
Other countries have also taken a precautionary stance against foreign travellers, particularly those from Southern African states, prompting backlash from some government officials and global bodies.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has referred to the bans as “travel apartheid”, saying they “are not only deeply unfair and punitive, they are ineffective.”
Sarafa Tunji Isola, Nigeria’s high commissioner to the UK, told the BBC media network “the travel ban is apartheid in the sense that we are not dealing with an endemic. We are dealing with a pandemic. Whenever we have a challenge, there must be collaboration.”