A hugereprievecame the way of African airlines following the removal of the 11 countries from the United Kingdom’s red list. Nigeria, South Africa, Eswatini, Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Lesotho, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe had found themselves on the UK’s infamous list, following the outbreak of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
But the British Government, in a statement yesterday, said that all the countries would be removed from the UK’s travel red list from 4 am on Wednesday. New Telegraph had exclusively reported that Nigeria and some other African countries would be taken off the red list.
It was learnt that the decision to quickly review the ban, rather than wait for December 20, was a result of global pressure, especially from Nigeria and South Africa, who viewed the ban or red listing as politically motivated.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), World Health Organisation (WHO) and other global bodies had condemned the position taken by the UK and some other nations as hasty and one that is not science-based.
It was also learnt that the enormous pressure from British Airways and Virgin Atlantic may have also paid off as many of the carriers see Nigeria and South Africa ashighyield routesthatcould help them to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic was learnt that there had been a lot of diplomatic moves behind the scenes by both the UK and Nigeria to forestall the breakdown of diplomatic relations between the two nations over the Omicron outbreak that put Nigeria and other nations on the dreaded UK red list.
The red list was reintroduced in late November, as a precaution after the emergence of the Omicron variant. But Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, said that it had spread so widely the rule no longer had many purposes.
“Now that there is community transmission of Omicron in the UK and Omicron has spread so widely across the world, the travel red list is now less effective in slowing the incursion of Omicron from abroad,” he told parliament.
The Airlines Association of Southern Africa (AASA), inastatementmadeavailable to our correspondent, said it is relieved that common sense had finally prevailed with the UK’s decision to relax the travel restrictions that were hastily imposed on South Africa and other Southern African countries, following the announcement of the identification of the Omicron variant by South African scientists last month.
“It was clear from the start that restrictions, the intentions of which are debatable, were counter-productive and ineffective.
We trust that policymakers and political leaders will take their lead from science and harmonise their adoption of measures for safe air travel that are recommended by the World Health Organisation and its UN sister body, the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
“At the same time, governments that have imposed restrictions on air travel ought to provide financial relief to airlines, their service providers and employees who have all been negatively affected by these restrictions,” said AASA CEO, Aaron Munetsi. Managing Director, Tour Brokers, one of the members of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), Mrs,. Uloma Egbuna, said lifting of the ban and scrapping of the red list is a welcome development which would also open the doors for