President Lazarus Chakwera and the country’s delegation to the United Nations (UN) Climate Change Summit in Scotland may face strict Covid-19 protocols as Malawi is on United Kingdom’s (UK) red list of high-risk Covi-19 nations, it has emerged.
The protocols include 10-days isolation for the unvaccinated, with each delegate expected to pay £2 200 (K2.2 million) for hotel quarantine fees. Those fully vaccinated will be expected to quarantine for five days.
Travellers from red list nations are also required to get Covid-19 tests three days before departure. Fines of up to £10 000 (over K10 million) apply to arrivals who fail to undergo the stipulated hotel quarantine while people who misrepresent their travel history face up to 10 years in prison, according to the UK’s Independent newspaper.
Malawi was not considered when the UK Government on Monday removed some countries including Kenya, Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Egypt from the red list.
Also known as Conference of the Parties (Cop26) on Climate Change, the summit will run from October 31 to November 12 in Glasgow, Scotland with thousands of participants from around the globe.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Relations has engaged the UK High Commission to push for lifting of the protocols.
In an interview on Wednesday, the ministry’s spokesperson Rejoice Shumba said government fears the protocols will be a financial burden.
She said: “Our take is that the protocols will make us suffer financially. Our wish is that we get exempted.”
Shumba disclosed that Minister of Foreign Affairs Eisenhower Mkaka engaged UK High Commissioner David Beer on Monday to plead for the exemption and Malawi’s removal from the red list.
“Based on diplomatic grounds, the ministry feels that subjecting Malawian leaders and delegates to the protocols may not be right. The good thing is that the High Commission has assured us that our concerns will be addressed,” she said.
On plea to be removed from the red list, Shumba said the justification is that Covid-19 cases have been decreasing in the past weeks.
However, Shumba could not disclose the number of people travelling but confirmed that Chakwera, Mkaka and Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry Nancy Tembo were among the delegation.
According to the UK’s Global Travel Taskforce report, published in April, the key parameters in assessing a country’s risk factors are rate of infection, progress of its vaccination programme and reliability of Covid-19 data.
The country has so far fully vaccinated only 4.3 percent of the targeted 60 percent of her population.
Meanwhile, Civil Society Network on Climate Change national coordinator Julius Ng’oma has criticised the UK Government for the protocols, arguing it will affect Malawi’s participation in the conference.
He said: “This is prohibitive and we are not happy as civil society and a country as a whole. We have been raising our voices through different dialogues.”
Ng’oma said over 10 civil society members have applied for accreditation through his organisation.
“We have never had such an amount of interest for the summit before. However, we fear the participation may be affected by the measures against the country and other red listed nations.
The UK High Commission had not responded to our questionnaire as we went for press.
However, the High Commission on Thursday issued a statement, signed by Beer, emphasising that those travelling from Malawi are still required to undergo isolation.
Reads the statement in part: “UK ministers announced an update to its system for international travel. This did not affect the rules currently in place for Malawi. Along with over 50 countries around the world, Malawi still remains on the UK Covid-19 red list.
“Unless you qualify for exemption, you will be required to quarantine in a managed hotel regardless of vaccination status.”
The red listed countries’ protocols have also angered other countries. Mohamed Nasr, Egypt’s lead climate negotiator told Climate Home News: “While we respect each country’s rules and regulations especially with regard to Covid, this situation will create a barrier to equal participation.”
He added the cost of quarantine risked increasing the bill for developing countries to attend the conference as accommodation in Glasgow is already expensive.
Pakistan’s climate minister Malik Amin Aslam also described the protocols as unfair: “Covid politics and vaccine apartheid should stay out of such an important international summit.”