Geoffrey York, Globe And Mail, September 19, 2021
New travel rules in Britain have sparked outrage in Africa, provoking allegations of racism and raising the spectre of deepening rifts between wealthy and poor countries as global travel begins to open up.
Britain on Friday announced a loosening of its restrictions for travellers from Canada and a number of other countries, but it shocked the African tourism industry by maintaining a ban on travellers from more than 20 African countries and many other countries in the developing world.
Kenya and Egypt were the only African countries removed from the “red list,” despite intense lobbying by African governments.
While the announcement has already triggered strong protests from South Africa and other countries, it was a separate British rule that caused the most anger. Britain said on Friday that it would deem travellers to be unvaccinated if they had not received their COVID-19 vaccines in a short list of approved countries, primarily in Europe and North America.
On social media on the weekend, many Africans said the British definition of vaccination, which excludes vaccines administered in most low-income countries, is irrational and racially discriminatory. “It is not rooted in science, so what is it based on?” asked Fatima Hassan, a South African human-rights lawyer and founder of the Health Justice Initiative, an independent organization.
“It is so racist,” she told The Globe and Mail. “This is shocking. It creates needless confusion about what is okay or not for the U.K.”
She said the World Health Organization should step in to intervene against the British rule, since it could fuel vaccine hesitancy by creating the perception that the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines in low-income countries are inferior versions.
Meanwhile, the decision to keep many African countries on the British red list has led to frustration and fury.
“Thousands of families and business people in South Africa and the U.K. are shocked by this continued exclusion,” the government of South Africa said in a statement on Sunday.