Tourism and hospitality players say Namibia’s classification, as a high-risk destination is a huge blow to the already struggling sector due to uncontrollable levels of Covid-19 new infections and deaths. The Centres for Disease Control (CDC) has issued a warning to travellers against travelling to Namibia due to the escalating Covid-19 cases, placing the country under alert level four.
Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) CEO Digu //Naobeb yesterday described the classification as a heavy blow to the already hard-hit industry.
“It is a big blow and disastrous setback for the tourism industry and indeed for Namibia whose economy is inextricably linked to greater tourism landscape. Cumulative long term impact will be loss of income, foreign valuta, jobs and more depressed businesses that may be well forced to close shop,” //Naobeb said.
CDC uses travel health notices (THNs) to alert travellers and other audiences to health threats around the world and advise on how to protect themselves.
On 21 November 2020, CDC adapted its three-level notice system to a four-level system for Covid-19 and updated criteria used to determine THN levels.
Against this, the CDC classified Namibia under alert level four, which means the country has a “very high level of Covid-19”.
The Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN) last week warned that the country could be classified as a high-risk destination due to rising Covid-19 cases and a slow vaccination campaign due to vaccine apathy.
HAN CEO Gitta Paetzold said this alone is already leading to cancellations of bookings in the system for July to September, a reason for great concern currently in tourism.
She explained while it was to be expected that Namibia’s Covid-19 cases would be rising during the winter season, as this has been the trend across the globe, the current rate of increasing numbers are truly alarming.
“Authorities base their travel restrictions and warnings on findings of medical research institutes such as the CDC and RKI in Germany, who look at the ‘incidence rate per capita’ in a country to determine the severity of the pandemic, the cut-off for average risk standing at 100 per 100 000,” Paetzold noted.
Currently, Namibia’s rate exceeds 160, which has propelled the country to risk status.
Another determining factor is the capacity of health facilities and services, and Namibia also faces huge challenges in this regard.
HAN advises the only way to curb the situation is for all to take responsibility in terms of adhering to rules such as social distancing, wearing masks, and sanitising.
“The key to all of our health and safety is for us all to contribute to the boosting of our immune system, by healthy living, vitamin C and D and by heeding government›s call to get vaccinated. We have it in our hands, individually and as a nation, to get through this crisis,” Paetzold encouraged.
Although NTB does not advocate for a complete lockdown, //Naobeb urged a more coordinated campaign be launched using leaders and influencers who were one way or the other afflicted by Covid-19 to tell their stories although might be perceived too sensitive and emotional to help drum up the vaccination drive.
“Certainly, vaccination is not bulletproof but it helps a great deal in ameliorating and softening the negative impacts of Covid-19 and thereby saving lives and help boost the image and reputation of the country, which is now negatively perceived. This will help tourism revival initiatives to redress the depressing impact of it. Let us join hands and move in the right direction,” //Naobeb stressed.
In October last year, Germany listed Namibia as one of the high-risk coronavirus destinations that should be avoided by tourists.
Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI) eventually removed Namibia from the list of high-risk destinations for Covid-19, with effect from 17 October 2020.
Despite the trying times of the upsurge of Covid-19 cases and deaths reported daily in Namibia, the tourism and hospitality industry has something to celebrate, as Namibians are taking up space in terms of accommodation occupancy.
By the end of the third quarter of last year, 64% of businesses reported a revenue loss of over 50%.
The CDC indicated on its website, “Avoid travel to Namibia. If you must travel to Namibia, make sure you are fully vaccinated before travel. Because of the current situation in Namibia, even fully vaccinated travellers may be at risk for getting and spreading Covid-19 variants. Travellers should follow recommendations or requirements in Namibia, including wearing a mask and staying six feet apart from others.”