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SA tourism minister questions UK’s Covid red list

2021-09-24  Staff Reporter

SA tourism minister questions UK’s Covid red list
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Recently-appointed Minister of Tourism, Lindiwe Sisulu, has brought a bit of respite to the issue around South Africa being red-listed on the UK’s traffic light system for travellers. In her keynote speech at Africa’s Travel and Tourism Summit this week, Sisulu said she addressed the red list matter with the British Deputy High Commissioner to South Africa. After some discussion, they had agreed to bring together scientists and advisors from both countries to conduct further research into the coronavirus Beta variant that has so far created the perception that South Africa is a Covid hotspot.

According to Sisulu, the British government believes the Beta variant – which allegedly circumvents all vaccinations of the coronavirus - is a South African variant. “They are confusing the variant with South Africa because it was first detected here. But it does not mean it is a South African variant. We have agreed to have a joint team of scientists to advise the South African and British governments so that they can get us out of the red and come with the right result.”

The summit kick-started on Monday, 20 September, and calls on all tourism role-players to reflect, reimagine and reignite a tourism sector in a bid to re-awaken Africa. The summit is a hybrid event accommodating delegates participating physically and virtually. It is the first pan-African summit of its kind as it is being hosted in three cities simultaneously, namely Johannesburg, Durban and Lagos.

Sisulu felt that Africa’s Travel and Tourism Summit is a significant step for the business events’ industry since limits on gathering numbers have been eased in South Africa. Up to 500 people can gather for outdoor events and 250 for indoor events. “Gatherings such as this summit are crucial to the industry’s survival. Through such events, we connect, we share ideas and we create a new positive narrative of Africa, one that shifts from a continent in turmoil to one that is recovering steadily and ready to do business.”

She said governments across the continent will have to show their commitment to reviving tourism as a crucial part of the economy.  One of the measures that need to be taken is to ensure an effective vaccination rollout programme. “Reports have shown that tourism in countries with a high share of vaccinated people will rebound faster than in countries with a low share.”

Nearly 76 million vaccinations have been administered throughout Africa. South Africa alone has administered over 15 million vaccines, and the country seems to show a downward trend in terms of infection rates. Yet, Africa as a whole is still considered an unsafe destination. “The AU also launched the Pan-African bio-surveillance technology called PanaBIOS that can track the spread of the coronavirus and connect testing centres across the continent. Yet, Africa as a whole is still considered a no-go zone. Many of our nations are on the UK red list of countries to avoid travelling to.”

Statistically, the Covid-19 pandemic has significantly dented the tourism industry in Africa. According to Statistics South Africa, all 10 leading SADC countries have shown a decrease in inbound tourist numbers from 2019 to 2020. Botswana had the largest percentage decrease of 80.6%.

2021-09-24  Staff Reporter

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