A number of golfers from the UK and Ireland have withdrawn from the Joburg Open ahead of the second day’s play. This first event of the DP World Tour, formerly the European Tour, has been hit by a health scare as South Africa has been added to the UK government’s travel coronavirus red list, along with Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia.
Among players to withdraw are Englishmen Oliver Fisher, Steven Brown, Richard McEvoy, Matthew Jordan, Andrew Wilson, Matt Ford and Graeme Storm, Scots Richie Ramsay, Liam Johnston and Craig Howie, Northern Ireland’s Jonathan Caldwell and Cormac Sharvin, and Wales’ Oliver Farr, together with Irish pair Niall Kearney and Paul Dunne.
The Joburg Open is the first event of the 47-tournament DP World Tour schedule, opening three weeks of events in South Africa.
UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced that flights to England from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe will be suspended from midday Friday 26th November, as all six countries are added to the red travel list. Anyone arriving in the UK from those territories after 4am on Saturday will have to stay at a managed quarantine hotel for 10 days.
British nationals arriving from these six countries between midday Friday and 4am Sunday, and who have been in these countries within the last 10 days, must quarantine at home for 10 days and take NHS PCR tests on day 2 and day 8, even if they already have a lateral flow test booking.
The move is a precautionary action against a new COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.529, which has a number of mutations and is thought to be highly contagious and resistant to vaccines.
The first round of the Joburg Open resumed on Friday morning after a thunderstorm brought an early end to play on Thursday. It marks the start of The Open Qualifying Series, with the leading three players inside the top 10 securing invites to next year’s major at St Andrews. Spain’s Angel Hidalgo (pictured) took an early lead, shooting 6-under 65 to lead the first round. Five players were in the clubhouse a stroke behind after shooting rounds of 66, including South Africans Dylan Frittelli and Hennie Du Plessis.
Travel restrictions may also affect rugby and cricket events planned in South Africa.