UK Red List: Even the Politics of Viruses is Local

UK has taken 11 African countries off its red list.

Viruses don’t lie. They can’t be hidden for long. Like constituents in politics, they need to be considered before decisions, particularly in Public Health discourse. Moreso when the topic or virus has led to a pandemic.

When politicians fail to consider their local constituencies, they are hardly reckoned with and make poor judgments. They are like nations and viruses. A virus’ current incidence like a politician’s impact, must be strongly checked at home. 

What was the UK thinking? That Omicron had chosen Africa as its peaceful abode, where it will multiply and infect at will? And Africa gets locked out while the continent will have its own labelled variant, and the UK and its cohorts will be free. Poor judgment.

When the world closed its doors on the continent, it was obvious everything was missing. Commonsense, public health, and humanity. The pace with which the decision came raised suspicions and it was malicious.

Making decisions on unfounded and distorted facts would always expose a nation, and the moment the United Kingdom placed eleven African countries on its red list, it was obvious it had missed a vital point.

If a nation closes its borders from just a select number of countries, but allows others who have recorded cases of that virus into its territory, then that’s selective ostracism. What the UK failed to do was check itself first before going for the eleven countries. It cared less. After all, it’s just Africa affected.  

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The incidence of Omicron variant increased in the UK after Nigeria and ten others were locked out. It is currently responsible for 20% of COVID-19 cases in London and 44% of total incidence in England. The UK obviously didn’t consult and research adequately about what it was dealing with before placing those countries on red list.
Knee-jerk reactions don’t stop viruses, not when local public health protocols are loose and lousy. It seemed like a joke when it happened, and its reality has proven it to be a bad one. 

That it took serious complaints and reactions from Africa, Nigeria and South Africa especially, and the world for the UK to review its decision tells the hypocrisy going on within its authorities and those of others like it. The UK doesn’t lack public health professionals good enough to advise its leadership that locking other countries out when a disease had commenced community transmission was a futile move. 

It also required a dressing down from the travel industry for the UK government to realise its decision was poorly-timed and ill-advised. The negative effects such decisions would have on the travel industry would have outlasted the pandemic if left to linger. At this point and on most occasions, the UK needs Africa more than Africa needs it. 

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Placing a travel ban on select countries when incidence of a disease has been established locally was an unnecessary show of diplomatic high-handedness.

Unfortunately, the compulsory quarantine many travellers were subjected to have now proven to be ill-informed too, and the travel industry in the UK is calling for their scrap. 

Tim Alderslade, Chief Executive Officer of Airlines UK, the umbrella body for UK-registered carriers said the government needs to reconsider its emergency testing and isolating measures. 

“If the red list isn’t necessary given that Omicron is established here at home, then neither are the costly emergency testing and isolation measures imposed on even fully vaccinated travellers,” he said.

Many people are coming to and from Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe to the UK and at such a period of heavy aviation traffic, the UK would have done itself a disservice by sticking to an arrangement that hardly had basis. 

If the UK had checked what was going on locally before its decision, it may have avoided the diplomatic slip it suffered. That’s the politics of viruses, it demands local consultations.

Nigeria and South Africa Are Sub-Saharan Africa’s Voices – They Must Raise It

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It took strong reactions from Nigeria and South Africa for the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates to reconsider their approach. For once, both nations proved they could be a force when acting together. 

The rest of the world gains far from Africa than what Africa gets from it and this must be a strength in negotiation during diplomatic rows. 

Both nations hold the continent’s deepest and loudest voices and the fate of others in international discourses, leans on how strong they stand in such controversial issues. 

Taking the easy ride sometimes breed difficult journeys and this adds yet another thing to the many experiences and lessons gained from this pandemic. Nigeria and South Africa must build on this show of character moving forward. It may be what the rest of the continent needs. Freedom, perhaps? 


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