UK queries Kenya exclusion from Covid-19 high risk list

Tuesday, February 9th, 2021 00:00 |
A photograph released by the UK Parliament shows Britain’s Vaccine Deployment Minister, Nadhim Zahawi, speaking in a socially distanced, hybrid session of the House of Commons in London on February 4, 2021. Photo/AFP

British MPs and scientists have raised concerns over how Kenya and 12 other countries were excluded from a list of  “high risk” countries, despite recording cases of the highly infectious South African and Brazilian Covid-19 variants.

 Countries whose nationals are from “high risk” countries will be required to quarantine for 10 days in a hotel from February 15 before they are allowed to enter the UK.

 Apart from Kenya, the other countries missing from the list are Austria, Denmark, France, Greece, Japan, Kenya, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Canada and the United States.

 Labour Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds reacted with fury at the news, branding the government’s quarantine measures ‘dangerously inadequate’.  

Emerging strains

 Scientists also said the oversight was ‘not good enough’, adding that the virus ‘spreads like wildfire’. 

 Julian Tang, a virologist at Leicester University, told The Sunday Times: It’s not good enough.

 ‘This virus spreads like wildfire. If you let some people in but not others, from a virology point of view, it’s fairly futile.’

 Thomas-Symonds said: ‘These revelations expose the fact that - as Labour warned - the UK Government’s quarantine measures will continue to leave us completely exposed to emerging strains of the virus. Not only are the measures far too slow to begin - 50 days after the South African strain emerged - they are also dangerously inadequate. Tory incompetence is dangerous.’

 The reports published by UK newspaper Daily Mail shows that out of 41 countries, which the World Health Organization (WHO’s) report said the South African strain had spread to, 29 of them did not feature on Britain’s red list.

 Overall, this means arrivals from 35 counties were more infectious strains, which could beat or limit the effect of the available coronavirus vaccines will be free to avoid the hotel scheme when they land in Britain.

 The move comes barely two weeks after Britain last night excluded Kenya from a list of 30 “high risk” countries whose nationals were required to quarantine in UK hotels for 10 days before being allowed to enter the country.

 Initial reports had indicated Kenya would be on the list of countries whose nationals would be subjected to strict Covid-19 protocols before being allowed entry.

 British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Parliament that passengers will be “met at the airport and transported directly into quarantine”.

 The initial reports had indicated that the high risk countries would include Brazil, South Africa, Portugal, Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia, much of South America and southern Africa and that they were chosen because of dangerous variants that had emerged there - or because they had experienced skyrocketing infections and death rates.

 But when Home Secretary Priti Patel eventually released the list of the 30 affected countries Kenya was not among them.

 Instead, neighbouring Tanzania, Malawi, Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa, Angola, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe are among African countries on the list.

 Passengers arriving in Britain from any of the listed countries will have to isolate for 10 days in hotels near airports and pay around £1,500 for the stay.  

 Said Johnson: “We have also banned all travel from the countries where there is a risk of known variants including South Africa, Portugal and South American nations.

 “They will be met at the airport and transported directly into quarantine. The Department of Health and Social Care is working to establish these facilities as quickly as possible.”

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