COVID-19: ‘Devastated’ woman unable to see grandmother in late stages of dementia due to new travel restrictions
South Africans in the UK have spoken of their devastation after their Christmas plans were ruined by new travel restrictions imposed due to the “worrying” new COVID variant.
Hannah Margetts told Sky News she had planned to fly to Cape Town in December to see her family for the first time in three years, including her 90-year-old grandmother who is in the late stages of dementia.
But the 25-year-old has been forced to cancel her flight for the seventh time since the pandemic after South Africa was added to the UK’s travel red list following the emergence of the B.1.1.529 variant.
“I think we’re in a really bad situation and it’s really sh***y for everyone,” she told Sky News.
“I feel a little numb actually. I wasn’t sure what to think last night. The emotions have hit a lot harder today.”
Ms Margetts, who lives in Camden, northwest London, had planned to spend Christmas with her mother, her grandparents and her two aunts in Cape Town.
“They’re just devastated,” she said. “They’re even more devastated than me because they’re the ones that are sitting there waiting for me.
“I feel terrible for my grandparents. My grandpa is in his 90s. His mental health hasn’t been doing well because of the lockdown there.
“My grandma has dementia – very late stages of dementia. I’m so scared any day I’m going to get a call that she’s died.
“This trip was really vital for me but now it’s all messed up.”
Justin Adams and his wife Serena were due to travel to Johannesburg on Tuesday to take their seven-month-old son Harvey to meet his grandparents for the first time.
The couple, who live near Winchester after moving to the UK in 2008, have now been forced to abandon their travel plans due to the high-cost of quarantining in a hotel.
“Emotionally it’s a big hit,” Mr Adams told Sky News.
“My parents are not going to get to see their grandson.
“I have two friends currently stuck in South Africa. One said to me this morning: ‘I don’t know what to do?'”
Mr Adams, 37, described the new travel restrictions as “knee-jerk”.
“It feels very, very sudden and very severe,” he said.
“They’ve got to make a judgement call. Politically, they’ll be damned if they do, damned if they don’t.”
Kate Lorimer, chair of the DA Abroad Global Council, the global arm of the official opposition in South Africa, said she had spoken to “so many devastated South Africans” following the new travel restrictions.
She told Sky News: “To make this sort of decision on the incomplete evidence about this variant is knee-jerk and will damage the South African economy once again which is already so depressed.”
The new variant – described by experts as the “most worrying” seen by scientists – has been found in South Africa, Botswana, Hong Kong, Israel and Belgium but no cases have been detected in the UK.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the UK was “buying time” by adding South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia to its travel red list.
Passengers arriving in the UK from these countries from 4am on Sunday will be required to book and pay for a government-approved hotel quarantine for 10 days.
Downing Street has urged anyone who has arrived from these countries recently to get tested.