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Omicron - COVID pulls the rug out from under tourism


Just as we all thought that tourism is on its way to recovery COVID pulled out the rug from under us with the new Omicron variant.

In a knee-jerk decision the UK government announced on Friday 26 November 2021 that the countries of Southern Africa are back on UK's red list and that flights are banned from midday Friday until Sunday to enable them to set up government controlled quarantine facilities to place everyone arriving in the UK in a 10 day quarantine.

This announcement created havoc in South Africa which has due to its highly efficient research facilities first identified the Omicron variant and has now been penalized by the Western nations for being so forthcoming to share this discovery.

To be clear, the Omicron variant is NOT a South African variant as it has been found in a number of countries unrelated to travellers visiting southern Africa.

On Sunday evening, South Africa's President Cyril Ramapohsa called to account the countries which have banned arrivals from Southern African countries, saying he was deeply disappointed. He said these bans were clear and unjustified departures from the declaration at the G20 last month in Rome, in which those countries made a commitment to support the return of tourism across the globe. He called upon those countries which had instituted travel bans against South Africans to immediately and urgently reverse their decisions and lift the bans.

The emergence of the Omicron variant is the unhappy fulfilment of expert predictions that the failure to prioritize vaccinations for African countries would allow the corona virus to continue to circulate and mutate on the continent, endangering the world's ability to move beyond the pandemic.

As Western nations kept most of the global vaccine supply for themselves, African countries were denied access to doses or could not afford them. Around 10 percent of people in Africa have received one dose of a vaccine, compared with 64 percent in North America and 62 percent in Europe.

But the problem is changing shape. In recent weeks, vaccines have started to flow into Africa, and the new challenge is how to rapidly scale up vaccinations — as South Africa demonstrates. 

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