British golfers leave Johannesburg Open ahead of variant flight ban
A batch of British and Irish golfers withdrew from the Johannesburg Open ahead of Friday’s second round after the British government announced it was banning flights from South Africa to counter the spread of a new variant of COVID-19.
The inaugural season of the DP World Tour began on Thursday, but more than a dozen players withdrew from the tournament due to the new restrictions, tour spokesman Steve Todd confirmed on Friday.
The UK has announced that it is suspending flights from South Africa and five other countries in southern Africa and forcing travelers from those countries to self-isolate for 10 days starting at 12:00 GMT on Friday. From Sunday morning, travelers should self-quarantine at the hotel.
UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid said there were concerns the new variant “may be more transmissible” than the delta strain, and “the vaccines we currently have may be less effective” against it.
In addition, the European Union said on Friday that it plans to halt air travel from southern Africa due to the variant, as the bloc of 27 countries is grappling with a massive spike in cases.
Spaniard Angel Hidalgo shot 6-under-65 on Thursday to lead the first round before play was suspended due to bad weather. It marked the start of a new era following the renaming of the European Tour to a title that better reflected its global nature.
Irish golfer Paul Dunne told RTE Radio he was unaware of the situation when he completed his delayed first round on Friday morning. He pulled out and planned to take a flight to Dubai on Friday.
âI had three holes to complete on my first lap, and when I walked in I turned on my phone and got messages from everyone asking if I was going to go to the airport or stay. and play. That’s when I started to get interested in it, âDunne told the radio show.
âA few people are on the course without really having a idea of ââwhat’s going on,â he added, âbut some people find it difficult. I’ve heard that people can’t take a flight until Sunday. evening.
Dunne said there were flights available but passing through Ethiopia, where fighting in the country’s one-year war draws closer to the capital, Addis Ababa.
âA bit of a minefield per minute,â he said.
Not all British players have left. Ashley Chesters shot 2 under 69 on Friday to end her second round with 7 under overall.
The Johannesburg Open marks the start of a swing in South Africa, followed by the SA Open and the Alfred Dunhill Championship.
Two Wales rugby teams are also planning to return early from their trip to South Africa. Cardiff and the Scarlets were scheduled to play in the United Rugby Championship this weekend.
“Following the announcement of a new variant of Covid in South Africa, Scarlets would like to assure families and friends that we are doing everything possible to bring our tour group back to the UK as soon as possible,” said Scarlets in a press release.
In a tweet on Friday morning, Cardiff said “we are now looking to repatriate our staff as soon as possible”.
The Irish province of Munster and the Italian club Zebre Parma are also in South Africa.
Munster tweeted on Friday: âWe are all safe and sound in Pretoria. We are working with URC on the current situation regarding Covid-19 and will provide an update once we know more. “