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Vaccination focus and stern travel message from Ramaphosa welcomed

‘We all have to learn to live with this virus’

President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation on Sunday night and urged all South Africans to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation on Sunday night and urged all South Africans to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
Image: GCIS

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement that the country would remain at lockdown level 1 after a recent increase in Covid-19 cases across the country has been met with positive responses.

Andrew Stark, MD Flight Centre Travel Group RSA, said Ramaphosa has taken a great position to open up international travel as soon as possible and to ask those nations that made knee-jerk reactions to the new Covid-19 variant to revert quickly.

“Hopefully that doesn’t fall on deaf ears. What I’m optimistic about is that as quickly as borders were shut to South Africans on Friday morning, that as quickly they open up to South Africans again. Ideally we’ll have corridors. We also need to put pressure on the fact that vaccinated travellers can have a pass when travelling internationally, and unvaccinated passengers don’t.”

During his address to the nation on Sunday night, Ramaphosa slammed some countries for prohibiting travel to and from Southern Africa after the discovery of the Omicron variant.

He said the travel bans were unjustified, discriminatory and not backed by science.

Stark said the country cannot afford further lockdowns.

“It’s something we’ve been saying over the past year: we all have to learn to live with this virus. The president made a very good point about the fact that it seems we have a surplus of vaccines. We need to get as many South Africans vaccinated as quickly as possible. It’s doable. The target was 65% of the adult population. It probably has to be a target of 80%+,” he said.

“It’s good to see the messaging is strong about potentially more mandates about vaccinated people. The government needs a stronger position on this. If you’re able to roam freely in restaurants and on public transport, there is no incentive to get vaccinated.”

Rosemary Anderson, Federated Hospitality Association of SA (Fedhasa) national chair, applauded Ramaphosa for the stern demand he made of the international community to remove SA from travel red lists.

Anderson said Fedhasa is agrees with Ramaphosa that we have to learn to live with Covid-19 and not let it ruin the economy, lives and livelihoods.

“We hope all South Africans will embrace what he said and use all the tools at our disposal — from vaccination to hand washing, masks and social distancing — to be able to continue operating under level 1  and keep our economy open, especially for hospitality and tourism.”

Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (Satsa) CEO David Frost said:  “We need to work with government partners to engage these source markets about the process to get off the red lists. 

We cannot languish on the red list at the whim of capricious politicians in the first world who have only their self-interest at heart and are not following the science or the data.”
Southern Africa Tourism Services Association CEO David Frost

“We should engage politically through the media and with all weapons at our disposal. We should do this together as a country. We cannot languish on the red list at the whim of capricious politicians in the first world who have only their self-interest at heart and are not following the science or the data.”

Otto de Vries, CEO of Association Of Southern African Travel Agents (Astata) , said enforcing and placing travel restrictions and bans is not the way to go.

“SA is not the source of this new variant. We were quick and clear to identify it and share it with the world. Do not punish us for our successes,” said De Vries.

Des O’Connor, kulula.com chief commercial officer, said: “ With SA remaining on level 1, we have an opportunity to support our local tourism and hospitality industry over the festive season while enjoying the amazing experiences we have on our doorstep. If you have not booked your December holiday yet, it’s not too late.”

The alcohol industry has also welcomed government’s decision to accelerate vaccinations while growing the economy.

The SA Liquor Brand owners Association (Salba) said it shares the view that travel restrictions imposed by other countries on Southern Africa are unjustified.

“Economic recovery of the alcohol, tourism and hospitality sectors is paramount to protect employment and grow the economy to pre-Covid-19 levels. We recognise the vaccine response can and should run in parallel with economic recovery. The alcohol industry has been and remains committed to play its part in increasing the uptake of Covid-19 vaccinations,” said Salba CEO Kurt Moore.

Salba urged that further responses to the increase in Covid-19 infections should avoid sudden restrictions that would cause needless financial shocks for businesses and their employees.

“Despite the knee-jerk global response to the announcement of the new variant in SA, the government has some control over what happens to the domestic market. The alcohol, tourism and hospitality industries desperately need a successful December season to recover and survive through to the off-season period,” said Moore.

TimesLIVE


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