Rwanda Responds on United Kingdom travel Ban

The Government of Rwanda has challenged the government of the United Kingdom (UK) to explain its decision of banning travelers from Rwanda to prevent the spread of new Covid-19 variants that are emerging.

On Thursday, January 28, Grant Shapps, UK’s Secretary of State for Transport announced that his country had added Rwanda, Burundi and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to its travel ban red list with effect from Friday, January 29.

The move, according to the UK was in response to new evidence showing “the likely spread of a coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa.”

“This means people who have been in or transited through these countries (Rwanda, Burundi and UAE) will be denied entry, except British, Irish and third-country nationals with residence rights who must self-isolate for ten days at home,” he posted on his Twitter account.

The decision also meant that direct flights between Rwanda and the UK were banned.

A statement from the UK government added that any exemptions usually in place will not apply, including for business travel.

“Today’s action follows new measures announced by the government to minimise travel across international borders and reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission, including managed isolation in hotels and the need to declare a reason for travel.”

The British High Commission in Rwanda commented on the development on the same day, saying the decision was taken due to the risk of new variants rather than “any reflection on Rwanda ‘s strong handling to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.”

On Saturday, January 30, the government of Rwanda has come out to question the UK’s decision, saying that the sparse information communicated in regard to the travel ban does not stand up to scientific scrutiny.

In a statement posted on its official website, the government of Rwanda pointed to the country’s response towards the virus, which has been characterized by transparency and consistency,

“Rwanda’s overall response to Covid-19 including testing, surveillance, contact tracing, containment, treatment and reporting has been consistent, transparent and corroborated by third party entities,” it read in part.

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“Rwanda is one of the few countries that require a PCR Covid-19 test for all departing passengers and all those in transit,” it added.

In addition, the government argued that “Rwanda did not join in the widespread bans on travelers from UK in December 2020 over the variant discovered in parts of the UK.”

The statement concluded with a request to the UK to give clarifications on the motivations behind the “arbitrary decision” by their government to impose the travel ban on Rwanda.

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Frank Fremer is a seasoned journalist, blogger and political analyst for over a decade in Uganda

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