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South Africa to engage UK over temporary ban on flights

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The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) says it has taken the hard but necessary decision to shut down 10 diplomatic missions abroad. According to the department, this was in response to the country’s fiscal constraints, exacerbated by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Addressing the media ahead of her department’s budget vote in Parliament, Minister Naledi Pandor said Cabinet made the resolution after a series of consultations that culminated in a decision. According to the Minister, the missions, which include embassies, high commissions and consulates, are being closed systematically during the 2021/22 financial year. “This decision is deeply regretted and South Africa expresses its confidence that the excellent diplomatic relations with these countries and regions will continue through the non-resident missions, and the diplomatic missions represented in South Africa,” Pandor said on Thursday. Pandor announced that the list of missions earmarked for closure include: Minsk, Belarus; Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago; The Holy See, The Vatican; Helsinki, Finland; Milan, Italy (consulate); Muscat, Oman; Suva, Fiji; Bucharest, Romania; Lima, Peru and Chicago, United States (consulate). In addition, she assured South African citizens resident abroad, businesses and tourists that a smooth transfer of civic and immigration services to non-resident missions is underway. “All affected stakeholders are advised to check with the affected embassies and consulates-general on the exact dates of termination of services,” she said. Meanwhile, Pandor said further announcements of the transfer of civic and immigration services will be made on the websites of DIRCO, the Department of Home Affairs and the affected missions. Foreign policy priorities According to Pandor, even before the global community was confronted with the COVID-19 pandemic, the world had become more volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. She said this includes crosscutting and border-blind challenges, global warming, terrorism, pandemics, and cybersecurity. “The global governance architecture is at a crossroads, as it struggles to manage the multiple challenges afflicting people and the planet, while governing relations between States, as well as those between States and non-State actors.” Therefore, Pandor said South Africa has to execute its foreign policy “conscious” and “responsive” to dynamic national and international contexts. “It is in this environment that South Africa promotes and protects its national interest. South Africa’s national interest displays a people-centred, progressive and developmental outlook evidenced in its foreign policy.” She believes that this could be done by promoting pan-Africanism, South-South solidarity and cooperation, North-South cooperation, and multilateral cooperation

South African Government says it has noted the announcement by the United Kingdom (UK) to temporarily ban all flights from the Southern parts of Africa, including South Africa, from entering the UK due to the detection of a new Coronavirus variant, B.1.1.529.

South Africa confirmed on Thursday that it has detected the new Coronavirus variant B.1.1.529 in the country.

According to the BBC, UK Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, announced on Friday that six African countries, including South Africa, would be added to the red list, with flights being temporarily banned from Friday at midday.

The other countries include Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia.

No cases have been identified in the UK. However, in a statement, that government said it was taking precautionary measures to protect public health and the progress made so far through their successful vaccination programme.

“The variant includes a large number of spike protein mutations as well as mutations in other parts of the viral genome. These are potentially biologically significant mutations, which may change the behaviour of the virus concerning vaccines, treatments and transmissibility. More investigation is required,” the UK government said.

UK to ban travel from six African countries due to new Covid variant
UK to ban travel from six African countries due to new Covid variant

While South Africa said it respects the right of all countries to take the necessary precautionary measures to protect its citizens, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) said the UK’s decision seems to have been “rushed”.

“Even the World Health Organisation is yet to advise on the next steps,” said the department.

Minister Naledi Pandor said: “Our immediate concern is the damage that this decision will cause to both the tourism industries and businesses of both countries”.

According to the department, the officials will engage the UK government with the view to persuade them to reconsider the decision. – SAnews

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