Late last night in the UK, Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced that flights from South Africa and several other neighboring nations would be suspended temporarily starting Friday.
But as UK officials jump at the opportunity to feed the panic, perhaps as a reason to justify other new COVID related restrictions, the last passengers traveling back from South Africa to the UK have already spoken out, and they're saying that they faced no additional scrutiny during their trip back from South Africa to the UK.
Source: the Daily Mail
According to the Daily Mail, passengers arriving from Johannesburg, the capital of the province of Gauteng where the variant was first identified, were subjected to "no additional precautions," according to one of the people on the flight, one of three arriving at Heathrow before the new ban comes into effect.
A friend arrived in London this morning on one of the last flights from South Africa.— Adam Schwarz (@AdamJSchwarz) November 26, 2021
Health officials met the plane, but no additional precautions are being taken for the hundreds of passengers.
The flight came from Gauteng - the province where the new variant was identified.
@JimfromOldham and @JonAshworth might consider asking the Government why hundreds of passengers arriving this morning from the province in South Africa where the new variant was identified are allowed to mix amongst the UK public with no mandatory additional testing/ isolation.— Adam Schwarz (@AdamJSchwarz) November 26, 2021
Even if measures were only legally enforceable from midday, there's so much the Gov/authorities could've done to help passengers - separate from other flights, book taxies so they avoid public transport & provide tests.— Adam Schwarz (@AdamJSchwarz) November 26, 2021
It's unforgivable not to help passengers do the right thing
The UK's "lax" approach contrasted with that of the Netherlands, where a video showed passengers arriving in Amsterdam being told they would not be allowed to leave the plane as public health officials imposed new restrictions.
Complaints about the situation have reached english-speaking Twitter.
After just about laying down to sleep for our 5th night in Cape Town we saw the news last night. Cleared out apartment in 5 mins and dashed to the airport to get a flight to Amsterdam. £1200 later and having arrived we have been left on the runway for over 2 hours with no answers— Dan Radley (@DJRadley1) November 26, 2021
As the Mail points out, one caller to the Jeremy Vine Show said her daughter was bypassing the ban by traveling back to the UK from South Africa via Egypt. "She's managed to find a flight to Cairo and then from Cairo to Heathrow to get her back tomorrow," the woman said, before adding: "She doesn't want to stay in a hotel when she gets back."
Secretary Javid has urged people arriving from "red list" countries to take PCR tests on day 2 and day 8, even if they are vaccinated, and isolate at home, along with the rest of their household.
In Cape Town, media reports honed in on shocked tourists being told the news. About how they burst into tears when they were told South Africa had been "red listed" over the new strain.
The new restrictions are forcing one digital marketer who flew into Cape Town for 10 days to "shorten" her goodbyes to a terminally ill friend.
Digital marketer Anna DeMarigny, 64, from Galway, Ireland, had flown into Cape Town for 10 days to say a final goodbye to her terminally ill best friend and was very emotional before she arrived.
She said: "My daughter Sasha is due to fly to visit me in Ireland on December 13 from San Francisco with her baby son Sebastian who is a one-year-old little baby boy of the pandemic."
"I cannot go into quarantine in a hotel for 10 days when I return and not see her or my grandchild. I just can't. I feel sick. I am going to have to cut short my stay with my friend who is dying."
"I'll have to spend a couple of hours with her only and then tell her I can't spend more time with her and get back to this airport and try to find a way home before my daughter arrives from the USA."
"My daughter works in San Francisco and is bringing her baby to meet his family for the first time so I cannot be in quarantine so I will have to say my short goodbyes to my lovely friend and get home."
And on an otherwise quiet Friday, it seemed the only organization speaking out against the UK's newest border restrictions (and the UK is hardly alone), denouncing them as a "knee jerk" reaction.
The Association of Southern African Travel Agents said the ban was a 'knee-jerk' reaction by the UK government that put airlines, hotels, travel businesses and travellers in a very difficult situation.
ASATA Chief Executive Officer Otto de Vries said: 'The world will unfortunately need to learn to live with Covid-19 variants for the foreseeable future.
Quietly, many critics of COVID variant hysteria, maybe even some of whom who got suckered in the last time around, were searching for a way to quiet tensions at a difficult time. But then again, we have been there before.
As a reminder, here are a few charts readers should keep in mind while assessing the threat posed by "Nu".
So far, all the countries that have been added to the UK's "red" list are neighbors of South Africa. But now that Belgium has confirmed its first "Nu" cases, how much longer until the UK starts slapping the restrictions on some of its European neighbors.