On Thursday (November 25), health authorities and South African scientists announced the discovery of the new variant B.1.1.529.
The variant, which was later given the Greek name ‘Omicron’, has led to a global border closure as uncertain governments work to protect their citizens from the new variant of Covid-19.
Although it later emerged that Omicron was in circulation for at least a month and maybe not even native to africa, South Africa bore the brunt of these travel restrictions as it was the first country to report the variant thanks to its world-class genomics facilities.
A mapping tool developed by the Skyscanner travel website shows that as of December 1, South Africa had 87 “major restrictions” from other countries. This is an increase from around 60 significant restrictions in mid-2021. These countries have suspended travel, may be closed to entry or entry is only possible if you are a citizen / meet strict entry requirements.
By comparison, there are currently 23 moderate restrictions for South Africa, where travel is possible, but only if travelers meet specific entry requirements, including passing Covid-19 tests and quarantine.
Some of the key restrictions include:
- Australia – Australia has marked South Africa as a level 4 “do not travel” risk. On November 27, the Australian government announced that Australian citizens, permanent residents or their dependents who have been in South Africa in the past 14 days must undergo a supervised quarantine for two weeks regardless of their vaccination status in their return to Australia. Direct flights from South Africa to Australia have also been suspended.
- Great Britain – The British government has placed South Africa on its much maligned travel “red list”, barring entry to all travelers except British nationals who will need to be quarantined.
- The European Union – The EU has imposed a general travel ban on southern Africa, with only residents allowed entry.
- United States – The Biden administration implemented a travel ban to South Africa on Friday. At a subsequent press conference, the US government said the ban was not introduced to punish South Africa but rather to protect the American people..
Local industries hit
A survey by the Western Cape government shows that travel restrictions have already had a significant impact on the province’s hospitality and tourism sector, with international travelers dropping bookings en masse.
As of November 30, 2021 at 2:00 p.m., the survey has received a total of 635 responses, mostly located in the Garden Route, Cape Town and Cape Winelands. The results show :
- 77% of those surveyed had customer cancellations for December 2021 bookings. 41% of those surveyed said that 50% or more of their December 2021 bookings were canceled.
- 59% of those surveyed had customer cancellations for January 2021 bookings. 29% of those surveyed said that 50% or more of their January 2021 bookings were canceled.
- 31% of those polled had cancellations from customers for February 2021 bookings. 13% of those polled said that 50% or more of their February 2021 bookings were canceled.
- 90% of those polled expected their income between December 2021 and February 2022 to be lower due to international bans.
- 62% of those surveyed said they would lose 50% more of their income during the same period.
The national government has called for the lifting of these travel bans with immediate effect, calling them unscientific and unfair.
“We reject this in the strongest terms because for us it amounts to discrimination against a country like ours and some countries in southern Africa, in fact we should be applauded as South Africa for alerting the world on this variant which is now starting to spread around the world, ”said President Cyril Ramaphosa.
“We have shown the world that we are transparent; it is our responsibility to the world to demonstrate and show that we have found this variant, and the least we expect is to be punished by various countries.
“This is of most concern to us, which is why we have totally rejected these bans that have been imposed on southern Africa and we also insist that these bans must be removed and lifted, because you are not trying. not contain a virus by imposing bans in an unscientific and indiscriminate way, ”he said.
The president said the world has advanced to a point where we now know they should be tested on departure and arrival when people travel.
“We have the tools and the means to face it; it also goes against the itinerant spirit of the G20 where the G20 countries have agreed that we need to open up travel because the tourism industry in the world has really been devastated – and for us, the travel industry. tourism is one of the key industries and for southern Africa as well.
“It is unfair and discriminatory towards us, and they impose an unfair punishment, and we reject it, and we call on them to lift it with immediate effect,” the president said.
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