African nations with low Covid rates urge UK to open 'travel corridors'

Annabel Fenwick-Elliott
·4-min read
kenya - istock
kenya - istock

Countries including South Africa, Kenya and Botswana have rates well below the FCDO's quarantine threshold

The UK Government is under pressure to establish air corridors with African countries that have low rates of Covid-19 in a bid to regenerate much-needed tourism.

A formal petition has been launched by the (ATTA) Adventure Travel Trade Association for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development office (FCDO) to reassess its advice on countries in East and South Africa, some of which have case rates per 100,000 citizens that sit well below the UK’s threshold of 20, and therefore could in theory qualify for quarantine-exempt status.

South Africa, which relies heavily on British tourism, currently has a rate of 18.7; Namibia is at 18.3, Botswana is at 11.1, Zambia is at 2.6 – all destinations popular for safari holidays. In the East of Africa, home to the Serengeti and the Masai Mara National Park, Kenya’s rate is also only at 2.6.

An ATTA spokesperson told Telegraph Travel: “We are concerned about the crisis unfolding: for wildlife and conservation; for the African economy and livelihoods; and for UK jobs in the travel sector. We are frustrated that there is a blanket approach when many African countries are well beneath the Government’s own criteria for allowing travel elsewhere.”

African countries have been opening their borders since the beginning of September, ATTA argues, and have some of the lowest Covid numbers in the world. Despite this, the FCDO still advises against all but essential travel to all the aforementioned countries and none are exempt from the UK’s quarantine list.

The African continent as a whole brings in £130 billion a year from tourism, and more than 25 million jobs rely on it. Of these jobs, each one supports between eight and ten dependents. 

Poaching, already an issue threatening many species across Africa – elephants, rhino and pangolin among them – has also been on the rise given the lack of funding to control it.

James Wilson, Marketing Director for Desert & Delta Safaris comments: “We are extremely disappointed that the UK is advising against travel to countries in Africa. Our continent has proven to be one of the least affected places in the world. Concerns about the virus devastating the poorer areas, hospitals being unable to cope and healthcare under extreme pressure were all fears that for the most part never happened.”

He adds: “In a country like Botswana where we operate, our guests spend on average 95 per cent of their day on safari in the outdoors. Dining is alfresco, the activities are on open 4WD game-drive vehicles or boats and the public areas are all open aired.”

botswana - istock
botswana - istock

Lindy Rousseau, Chief Marketing Officer of Singita, which has lodges across Africa, agrees. “There is no better way to socially distance and escape the crowds than on a safari in Africa - in small, private lodges, with abundant fresh air and sunshine,” she tells us. “After considering every risk and tailoring our safety protocols, Singita is welcoming guests on a transformative African safari where health, wellbeing and safety are top of mind.

“We are deeply concerned about the negative impact of this extended lockdown on wildlife conservation, the African economy and the livelihoods of our neighbouring communities. We are frustrated that there is a blanket approach when many African countries are beneath the UK Government’s own criteria for allowing travel elsewhere.”

Kgomotso Ramothea, Acting Hub Head, South African Tourism told us: “International tourism is crucial to the economic development of South Africa and wider Africa, in helping to create employment, support local communities and protect our incredible wildlife. 

“We fully support ATTA’s ‘Open African Travel’ campaign to stand collectively as a continent in asking the UK Government to review its travel corridor list and current travel restrictions to African countries, by assessing each country individually and applying the same metrics as they do to the rest of the world.”

South Africa opened its borders to international travellers on October 1, however, the UK is currently deemed one of the ‘high-risk’ countries to which it won’t allow entry. Britain’s case rate per 100,000 people stands at 136.8.

“Once that changes it will be so important for us to welcome British travellers back to travel safely and freely to our country and the wider continent, with a UK and African travel corridor in place,” Ramothea added.