Joburg Open golf stars abandon European Tour event amid COVID travel concerns

By Sports Desk November 26, 2021

Sixteen golfers from the United Kingdom and Ireland withdrew from the Joburg Open on Friday as strict new rules affecting travellers from South Africa came into effect.

The emergence of a new COVID-19 variant in South Africa has led the UK government to implement a sudden change to its rules for arrivals, taking effect from midday on Friday.

It has declared that British nationals arriving before Sunday morning after a stay in South Africa – as well as Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia – must self-isolate at home for 10 days and take two PCR tests in that time.

All such travellers arriving in England from 04:00 GMT on Sunday will be required to go into a hotel quarantine facility for 10 days.

Flights to the UK from the newly red-listed countries were being suspended.

It was no coincidence that the European Tour event in Johannesburg saw a rash of withdrawals, with players looking to get home.

Those who pulled out were England's Steven Brown, Oliver Fisher, Matt Ford, David Howell, Matthew Jordan, Richard McEvoy, Graeme Storm and Andrew Wilson, Scotland's Craig Howie, Liam Johnston and Richie Ramsay, Wales' Oliver Farr, Northern Ireland's Jonathan Caldwell and Cormac Sharvin and Ireland's Paul Dunne and Niall Kearney.

Johnston posted on Twitter a version of a poster for the Meryl Streep film Out Of Africa, with his face superimposed in place of Robert Redford's. Sharvin replied: "Too good."

UK health secretary Sajid Javid said of the new measures: "We are taking precautionary action to protect public health and the progress of our vaccine rollout at a critical moment as we enter winter, and we are monitoring the situation closely."

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