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S.Africa eases Covid rules, presses UK on travel limits

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday eased national Covid-19 restrictions, and said he had pressed Britain to relax its travel limits on his country.

During a nationally televised speech, he also announced a new standardised Covid vaccination certificate, which he said could ease travel and help access events that require proof of innoculation.

“Streamlining and standardising proof of vaccination will also go a long way toward getting a number of international travel restrictions both from and into our country eased,” he said.

Britain has placed South Africa on its coronavirus “red list”, forcing travellers from the country into a pricey hotel quarantine on arrival.

Ramaphosa said he had discussed the issue with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“We both agreed that decisions of this nature should be informed by science, and we are both hopeful of a positive outcome when the issue comes up for review in the coming days by their scientists.”

In London, a Downing Street spokesperson said the leaders acknowledged the challenges posed by the travel restrictions.

“The prime minister agreed to continue working closely with President Ramaphosa on this issue, to ensure that safe travel, trade and tourism between our countries can recover as soon as possible,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

Before the pandemic, more than 400,000 visitors a year flocked to South Africa from the former colonial power — more than any country outside of the continent.

Infections in South Africa have dropped to below 2,000 a day. Britain is seeing 17 times as many cases a day.

Ramaphosa eased the national curfew in South Africa, now in place from midnight to 4am. He ended a ban on weekend alcohol sales, allowed larger public gatherings.

He also announced expanded efforts to get South Africans vaccinated.

“We follow science,” he said. “Vaccination is our best defence. If we can reach our vaccination targets by the end of this year, we can avoid further restructions and kick our economic recovery into high gear.”