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Cancelled weddings and family reunions: frustrated travellers mourn South Africa’s addition to the red list

Heartbroken travellers are still in shock after learning that South Africa, along with six other African countries, will put back on the UK’s red list from 12pm on 26 November.

From this date, only British and Irish nationals and residents will be allowed into the UK if they’ve been in one of these destinations in the previous 10 days; all other travellers will be banned.

A temporary flight ban is in place from midday until 4am on 28 November, from when even those permitted to enter the UK will have to cough up to spend 10 days in a mandated hotel quarantine facility.

The news, announced late on 25 November, was a devastating blow to the many people with trips booked in the coming weeks.

Aside from the uncertainty of claiming a refund for expensive flights and hotel stays, many thwarted travellers’ plans involved spending time with family in South Africa after months, and even years, apart.

Kerry Thompson tweeted from South Africa: “I’ve not seen my parents for 2.5 years due to Covid restrictions.

“Their first grandchild was born in February last year and their only interaction with her has been via Facetime.

“They are due to fly out next Friday and the thought of not seeing them is gut wrenching.”

Meanwhile, Elliot Sharod, 27, who works in the IT industry, is having to potentially cancel his wedding for the third time since the pandemic began.

“I lived in South Africa for 12 years, and it’s a special place for me,” he tells The Independent. “I also proposed to my now fiancée on a trip to South Africa and we visit as often as possible.

“For us it’s everything we love – especially being in the African bush on safari.”

The couple wanted something small and intimate and first planned a wedding for 18 people back in 2020. Six days before flying out, Covid restrictions hit.

They rearranged the event for December last year – and then the Delta variant catapulted South Africa onto the UK’s red list.

This latest setback has left Elliot and his partner feeling helpless.

“I think right now there’s a feeling of anger, frustration, and just being totally fed up with this now,” he says. “Just as it seems things are improving and heading in the right direction, it all goes wrong again.

“It’s just frustrating beyond belief.”

Simon Parker, a travel writer and broadcaster, was due to fly out to South Africa with his girlfriend for the next seven months “for lots of work and sunshine” – including projects in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia.

“That has – it would seem – gone up in smoke,” he says. “The exact same thing happened to us last winter. I’m currently trying to rearrange hotels, apartments and flights.”

Thankfully the Airbnb the couple booked in Cape Town has given them a full refund, meaning they’re not £2,000 out of pocket. But they are still waiting apprehensively to see whether Virgin will cancel their flight, meaning they can claim a cash refund rather than being fobbed off with a flight voucher.

“On a very personal level, we are devastated,” he says. “As freelancers the past two years have been an immense struggle. This was our celebratory trip – the start of getting our lives back.”

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