Escape from the Red Zone

Major news for Malawi this week was the UK’s decision to remove it from the “red list” (along with many other countries, including all of Africa). 

While Malawi has been on the red list, Malawians were not allowed to visit the UK and British nationals who visited Malawi were required to quarantine in a Government-approved hotel for 10 days on their return to the UK. It is understandable that the UK has sought to do everything possible to protect its population during an unprecedented public health emergency. At the same time, it has caused some bemusement that Malawi was placed in the red zone since it has so far had relatively low incidence of covid-19, its case numbers a small fraction of those occurring in countries like the UK.

Of course, the vast majority of Malawians have no plans to visit the UK and it is unlikely that they will ever do so during their entire lifetime. But this does not mean they are unaffected. The tourist industry is not insignificant in Malawi and the lack of visitors during the red list regime has had far-reaching and damaging effects on the national economy. Many businesses have had to close down or be mothballed. There has been no furlough scheme to cushion the effects so many have simply seen their employment and income disappearing.

Then there is a small minority (me included!) for whom visits to the UK are a necessary part of their life – for family, study or work purposes. For this group the prospect of something closer to normal conditions for travel is a great relief. So the removal of Malawi from the red list probably has relatively little consequence for the UK but it can be a game-changer for Malawi.

Meanwhile today Malawi’s 7-day average for recorded new covid cases has fallen below 10 for the first time since mid-June. By now, people are realistic and many remark that this is probably a temporary reprieve before the next wave arrives. But meanwhile life is a little less tense, and we learn to be thankful for small mercies.

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