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Relief for the tourism industry

2020-10-22  Albertina Nakale

Relief for the tourism industry
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Players in the tourism industry can now heave a sigh of relief after the government yesterday announced the relaxation of Covid-19 restriction, including the removal of the five-day mandatory test for international visitors.
President Hage Geingob has announced new measures that are meant to aid the revival of the local tourism industry. Geingob announced that all travellers arriving in Namibia with a negative PCR test result, that is not older than 72 hours, will be permitted to proceed to their final destination in the country.  As part of the International Tourism Revival Initiative, Namibia opened up borders to international tourists in September to save the bleeding tourism economy that was devastated by the effects of Covid-19 pandemic. 

This was followed with the recent opening of more entry points in addition to the Hosea Kutako International Airport to allow foreign visitors to enter Namibia by roads.
Initially, foreign nationals arriving into the country were required to present a valid Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours of departing to Namibia. 

However, the tourism business was not happy with the government directive that mandate tourists be swabbed for Covid-19 on day five into the country. Under the revised new Covid-19 measures, “The requirement for the mandatory five-day retest has been withdrawn,” the President said. 

Also, travellers arriving in the country with a negative PCR test result that is older than 72 hours and not older than seven days will be permitted to enter the country. 
“However, they will be required to undergo seven-days supervised quarantine at home or tourism facility. If these environments do not fulfil quarantine requirements, the travellers will be placed under mandatory government quarantine facilities at own cost,” the President said.

President Geingob has cautioned that international visitors “who do not present a negative Covid-19 PCR test result, will not be granted entry into the country.”

Geingob noted that the tourism revival initiative had started to show encouraging results.
Gitta Paetzold, chief executive officer of the Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN) has welcomed the new government measures, adding that she does not foresee challenges.

“This is the best news for us in tourism. We are rejoicing. Now we can seriously work on our tourism revival. This is a huge step forward for us. Namibia now again leads as tourism destination opening up to tourism flow and tourism revival efforts can now start in earnest. 
“Our leaders have shown commitment and understanding for the needs of our sector and we wish to thank and praise them for their trust in us. Now it is up to the tourism players to make it work, commit to tourism safety protocols,” Paetzold said in reaction to the new Covid-19 measures.

She said HAN had positive feedback from the tourists already in the country, adding Namibia’s protocols and procedures, from airport to establishments and other services even exceed the ones in Europe.
The Federation of Namibia Tourism Associations (Fenata) is also delighted, with its chairperson Netumbo Nashandi thanking the government effort to help revive the tourism sector.
“We’re delighted that the Namibian government has ensured a favourable environment for the tourism sector to revive and for the opportunity to boost our economy. 

“His Excellency, President Hage Geingob mentioned that some countries may be going into a second wave of the pandemic, so let us continue adhering to health protocols and remain vigilant,” Nashandi said.

Meanwhile, returning Namibian citizens or permit holders may enter the country with or without a Covid-19 PCR test result. But in the event, such persons present a positive test result or no result at all, they will be subjected to mandatory quarantine and testing or isolation, after arrival.

“This provision shall also apply to aircraft and marine vessel crewmembers; humanitarian aid workers, essential service providers, as well as operators and drivers of cross-border transport vehicles who arrive in the country without the requisite test,” he said.

The local transport industry will also breathe a sigh of relief as restrictions on passenger numbers in public transport, private vehicles and group tour operators are also lifted. 
This means vehicle occupancy can revert to the respective carrying capacities of a particular vehicle and fares to be charged will return to normal.

In the last four weeks, since the end of the six months’ state of emergency, Namibia recorded 61% in the number of new cases and a 40% reduction in the number of Covid-19 related deaths.
President Geingob has however warned Namibians and visitors against complacency over the virus, which he said could lead to the second wave of infections.
The limitation to the number of persons permitted at public gatherings shall be increased to a maximum of 200 persons until 30 November 2020. –

Pic: Covid update

2020-10-22  Albertina Nakale

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