Black Friday for SA tourism industry as UK puts SA back onto Red List, followed by European Union!

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The UK has reacted swiftly t0 the news of the discovery of a new Covid variant in our country earlier this week, and has banned all flights from South Africa, as well as those of its neighbours Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, and Eswatini (the former Swaziland) reports The Guardian.  The ban starts at midday today!

Israel has announced that it too is banning flights from our region.

This is a significant blow ahead of the Festive Season, when our country itself faces possible Government action against the sudden sharp rise in cases this week, especially in Gauteng, which could lead to new regulations imposed regarding alcohol sales,  and making the Curfew start time earlier.

The Guardian reports that the UK Government action results from the discovery by our scientists of the B.1.1.529 variant, ‘feared to be more transmissible and has the potential to evade immunity, posed a ‘potentially significant threat  to rhea vaccine  programme which we have to protect at all costs’. 

The new variant is described  as having an “extremely high number’ of  mutations meaning that the spike protein looks different from the  version that vaccines were designed to target’. 

Travellers arriving back in the UK from the six Southern African countries may have to take PCR tests, with self-isolation and managed quarantine hotel stays to follow.

The World Health Organisation is meeting today, to consider whether it should define the new variant one of ‘interest’ or ‘concern’.

The Hospitality industry has reacted speedily with this media statement from FEDHASA:

Johannesburg, 26 November 2020FEDHASA is hopeful that the UK’s precautionary measure to add South Africa and several neighbouring countries to its red list as will be lifted swiftly as scientists unpack the extent to which the COVID-19 vaccines will be effective against the new variant, B1.1.529.  

“The UK being our largest inbound international market, last night’s news by the British Government has caused widespread disbelief and disappointment amongst our hospitality industry as we enter our peak festive season period,” says Rosemary Anderson, FEDHASA National Chairperson.

“New variants are discovered all the time, often without making any major impact, and we are still hopeful that our advanced scientific capability will find that in this case there is little to worry about, but that does not mean that this decision by the British government won’t have widespread repercussions, not only by dissuading British travellers to visit South Africa, but also due to the likely spin-off we will see from other key source markets if they take the UK’s lead,” says Anderson.

FEDHASA highlights how unsustainable this situation is for South Africa and for its tourism and hospitality sector which generates 1.5 million direct and indirect jobs and is the country’s second-largest export.

“There is no question that South Africans need to go out and get vaccinated as a matter of urgency. To be locked down on a semi-regular basis and banned for international travel because of our advanced genomic sequencing capability and low vaccination rates cannot continue. We depend on tourism for jobs and livelihoods,” Anderson says.  

Further, as we head into the festive season with a rising infection rate and the prospect of local lockdowns which directly impact the hospitality sector, Anderson calls on South Africans to do everything in their power to stem the spread of a fourth wave.

“We simply cannot have a repeat of December 2020 where restaurants and hospitality businesses bore the brunt of COVID regulations making travel and restaurant patronage unappealing and difficult. Our industry has had to endure being thrust from wave to wave for the past 20 months and it simply isn’t sustainable to keep businesses open and livelihoods intact. It is up to every South African to do their part and help us keep our doors open by complying with the protocols and getting their #jab4tourism,” Anderson concludes’.

 

POSTSCRIPT: Following the UK is the European Union,  the Netherlands, Germany,  and France banning flights from SA too. Italy and Austria had already banned flights from SA. Singapore is banning flights from Sunday. Japan has not released its details of its ban.

 

Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.whaletalesblog.com www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein, My Cape Town Guide/Mein Kapstadt Guide Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein @MyCapeTownGuide

 

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