Photo by Magda Ehlers from Pexels

KENYA has warned the UK government about the dangers of putting African countries on its travel ban “red list”.

Najib Balala, cabinet secretary for tourism and wildlife, said “so-called protection travel advisories” once again left poorer nations behind.

Speaking at a travel summit about restarting tourism in Africa, Mr Balala said that while it was good news that the UK and US were rolling out the covid vaccine quickly, “what happened to Morocco, what happened to Kenya, what happened to South Africa?” 

He said: “Now we are red listing countries, for example Kenya by the UK. We are red listing South Africa. Every country red listing each other is not going to help.”

Kenya has seen infection rates rise in the last month with President Uhuru Kenyatta restricting travel in the capital Nairobi and surrounding areas.

Najib Balala, Kenyan cabinet secretary for tourism and wildlife
Najib Balala, Kenyan cabinet secretary for tourism and wildlife

A new variant, which was found in South Africa in December, has hit the country hard but cases have started to fall. The variant has been detected in more than 60 countries but not all are on the UK’s travel “red list”.

Mr Balala said the South African variant was a global problem – a reality brought home when the UK variant spread quickly around the world.

He said: “This is not a problem for South Africa, this is a problem globally because that variant will spread to the rest of the world. The UK variant now has spread all over the United States. It’s not going to be healthy to red list each other.”

Mr Balala’s comments come days after Kenya’s ministry of foreign affairs hit back after being placed on the UK travel ban list. Their statement on Twitter said the move was “disturbing”. It also warned of “vaccine apartheid” and added that the introduction of passport vaccines would “widen inequalities.”

Dr Taleb Rifai, chairman of the ITIC (International Tourism and Investment Conference) and former Secretary-General of UNWTO, said countries like the UK were “overrating the vaccine” and instead they needed to focus on testing to restart tourism.

He said because it would take five years to vaccinate at least 70% of the world “it is not going to be the solution for the long term. Travel and tourism cannot work unless everyone is vaccinated. It should depend more on testing. A combination of testing and vaccination.”

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