South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has come out against the decisions taken by many countries to ban or restrict travel from the Southern African region.
Last week, South Africa’s Health Department announced the discovery of a new Covid-19 variant. The B1.1.529 or Omicron has several mutations which could impact the way the variant behaves. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared Omicron as a variant of concern.
Ramaphosa says the decision to ban travel from South Africa and surrounding countries goes against agreements made during last month's G20 Summit in Rome. He explained that the G20 Rome Declaration included supporting the recovery of the tourism sector from developing countries.
He said, “We are deeply disappointed by the decision of several countries to prohibit travel from a number of Southern African countries following the identification of the Omicron variant. This is a clear and completely unjustified departure from the commitment that many of these countries made at the meeting of G20 countries in Rome last month”.
Countries that have taken the decision to ban or restrict travel from Southern African countries include the United Kingdom, United States, European Union members, Canada, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, Japan, Thailand, Rwanda, Mauritius, Seychelles, Brazil and Guatemala.
Ramaphosa has called on nations who have introduced travel bans for Southern African countries to reverse their decisions and prevent any further damage to the economies and the livelihoods of people.
David Frost, CEO of Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA) says it was encouraging to see Ramaphosa take a stance against the decisions made by these nations. This as the impact of travel bans will negatively impact the recovery of the Tourism and Hospitality sectors.
He says the current situation resembles the fear of the Beta Covid-19 variant which saw South Africa remain on travel red list. He says through lobbying efforts to get the country off these red lists, it became evident that the decision to ban the country was not backed by science.
Frost said, “here we are again in exactly the same situation as getting off the red list in October. There was amazing pent up demand, so our members who have been without business for many months were looking forward to a good couple of months of the high season”.
This expected high season which was meant to help the tourism industry now looks in serious doubt. Frost revealed that SATSA members reported that R940 million worth of cancellations were reported in a 48 hour period.